Dallas child psychologist allowed to keep medical license despite molestation conviction
By Diane Jennings
A Dallas mother is outraged that her daughter's molester, a child psychiatrist who is a registered sex offender, has been allowed to retain his medical license.
"I'm shocked," said "Debbie," who asked that her real name not be used to protect her daughter's privacy. As a psychiatrist, "this person needs to be imminently trustworthy – and I don't trust him."
Debbie assumed Dr. William Olmsted would automatically lose his license after registering as a sex offender in January following a plea to a charge of indecency with a child.
But the law is "a little bit in conflict," said Jill Wiggins, public information officer for the Texas Medical Board. Texas law says the board shall revoke an offender's license. But "it also gives the board the authority to stay a revocation or to probate a revocation."
And that's what the board did at its August meeting. Olmsted, 46, was placed on probation for 10 years, with certain restrictions. He must submit to a psychiatric evaluation; limit his practice to a group or institutional setting, and to treatment of adult males only; complete "professional boundaries" courses; and pay a $5,000 fine.
He also must follow the terms of his plea bargain with Dallas County, where he agreed to six years of deferred adjudication and registration as a sex offender, including the requirements that he stay away from children other than his own and obtain counseling.
It's not unheard of for a sex offender to keep his medical license. But Wiggins said "it's certainly not common."
Olmsted, who is registered at an address in Georgetown, could not be reached for comment. Tim Weitz, the attorney who represented Olmsted before the board, declined to comment, deferring to the "findings of fact" in the board's order.
It is unclear whether Olmsted is practicing. He does not list a business address with the board, and his sex offender registration lists his occupation as "unemployed."
Debbie hopes he isn't practicing. For her, the board's decision was the latest turn in a steep learning curve on the difficulty of prosecuting sex offenders.
"We were always pretty frank," she said.
But she never expected their affable neighbor, who planted petunias to welcome their daughter, "Cathy," home from the hospital when she was born, to later assault her.
Cathy, now a soft spoken 16-year-old, adored the Olmsted family, including the doctor's three children. She listened to her parents' safety warnings, but, "I never really thought about it being someone you would know," she said.
The abuse occurred one night when she was 10, while watching Finding Nemo at the Olmsted house with his children. When Olmsted's daughters fell asleep on the couch in their living room, Olmsted put Cathy's foot in his mouth and began sucking her toes, she said. Then he put his hand in her Capri pants and underneath her shirt.
"He was whispering in my ear and asking if it felt good," she remembers with a grimace.
Cathy finally managed to push away, and as she sprinted toward home, she says that Olmsted called to her: "Let's not tell anybody about this toe licking thing."
At first, she didn't. But two years later, she confided in a friend. A year later she told her mother in a letter.
"I've always thought I would just immediately leap on anyone who tried to hurt my children," Debbie said. But "rather than being angry, we were just literally stunned."
Cathy said she didn't tell her mother sooner because she was too embarrassed. "There was just no way I could say it," she said, adding that she feared Olmsted might try to hurt her.
When Cathy did tell, she "just wanted to be able to get it off my chest and move on."
Debbie found a therapist for Cathy and called authorities. As angry as she was, she still found it difficult to report Olmsted. "I kept saying ... 'He's my friend. We are neighbors. I've known him for 13 years. He's a child psychiatrist.' "
Her friendship with Olmsted's wife and children died when she reported the crime. "You can't imagine what it's like, in a matter of seconds going from being friends and neighbors to, 'he's my mortal enemy,' " Debbie said.
Debbie never wavered in pursuing charges. "It was as if I put my daughter on a pike, parading into town," she acknowledges. But Debbie wasn't about to drop the matter. "I'm an adult," she said. "I just know you can't let people get by with this."
Mandy Griffith, who prosecuted the case and now works as a federal prosecutor, said Debbie has "a very keen sense of justice. She wanted justice for her daughter."
Debbie said Olmsted's work as a child psychiatrist haunted her. "If he had the audacity to do what he did with our daughter, he's certainly not to be trusted with any other children."
In December 2006, more than three years after the incident, Olmsted was arrested. Debbie then filed a complaint with the Texas Medical Board.
She had no idea it would take almost three more years before either the criminal justice system or the board held Olmsted accountable.
During those years, prosecutors came and went, trial dates were scheduled and postponed and plea bargains were floated and dismissed. Olmsted continued to practice [as a child psychologist].
When pleas were discussed, Debbie and her family compromised, saying they wouldn't insist he serve prison time because Olmsted is "not a violent person." But she said Olmsted must register as a sex offender.
'Made him look small'
At his sentencing, Cathy locked eyes with him, and gave her statement. "I thought you loved me," she said. "But how could you bring so much pain upon someone they loved? The nightmares still won't go away. They never go away. Why did you do this to me? You betrayed me."
Cathy now says she's glad she spoke up. "It made me feel really brave and big and made him look small."
Debbie wasn't finished. The medical board still hadn't taken action.
The board can suspend physicians when they are arrested, but it didn't suspend Olmsted. Three weeks after the criminal case was closed, Debbie was notified his disciplinary case was still open. Every few weeks the medical board would tell her the same thing.
Providing due process takes time, said Wiggins, the medical board spokeswoman, and discipline would have taken even longer had Olmsted not accepted an "agreed order."
The strict probation Olmsted received is "as far as you can go without actually taking away the license," she said. And even with a license, it's difficult for disciplined doctors to practice because obtaining credentials or professional insurance is practically impossible.
Debbie is disappointed. She wonders how many people check a physician's disciplinary record. And who will monitor Olmsted to see if he complies with the discipline?
But she's grateful her family's ordeal is over. And while she doesn't regret prosecuting her former friend, she doesn't rejoice in his punishment.
"It's a horrible thing, every aspect of it," she said. "It's not something to celebrate."
2nd family accuses child psychiatrist of misconduct with 10-year-old girl
By Diane Jennings
A second family stepped forward Friday to say that registered sex offender Dr. William Olmsted acted inappropriately while treating its 10-year-old daughter in 2005.
And state Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, plans to meet with the Texas Medical Board to discuss why Olmsted, a child psychiatrist, was allowed to retain his medical license after his 2006 no-contest plea to indecency with a child in a case involving another 10-year-old girl.
Carona also has asked his staff to research the issue to see if state statutes need to be refined to prevent similar situations.
"We get requests from legislators all the time and provide whatever information they request," board spokeswoman Jill Wiggins said in response, "So that's pretty normal."
Family members who came forward Friday said that Olmsted dropped his pants in front of their daughter while changing into a costume. The father of the girl said they pulled her from the doctor's care immediately, and her mother reported the incident to law enforcement authorities and the medical board.
But the father, who requested anonymity to protect his child's privacy, said the board never followed up with the family after an initial notice in September 2005 saying it would respond again in 90 days.
Wiggins said she could not comment on complaints that do not result in discipline, but she said the "90-day letters are automatically generated," so unless there was a problem with mail delivery, the letters would have been sent.
The 2005 incident took place two years after the one for which Olmsted was forced to register as a sex offender.
"To find that the state board knew of not one but two complaints of impropriety with young girls and yet allowed this doctor to continue his practice with children is unconscionable," the father wrote. "I am severely disappointed with the state of Texas right now and doubtful of its ability to stand watch over her children."
Carona's ire was raised after he learned that Olmsted was publicly reprimanded by the board in August and placed on probation with restrictions on his license for 10 years. A neighbor accused him of touching her beneath her clothes and sucking her toes when she was 10.
"As a father of five, it outrages me" that someone who practiced with children, then violated a child, "would somehow be allowed to retain his medical license," Carona said.
"Holding on to that license, regardless of the restrictions that may have been stacked up on it, has an air of legitimacy, and I think could in fact further endanger others."
The board issued an "agreed order" seven months after Olmsted was sentenced to six years' deferred adjudication in January. Under the order, Olmsted may practice only in a group setting – with one or more other doctors – or at an institution such as a prison. He may treat only adults, must complete professional boundaries courses, undergo a psychiatric evaluation course and pay a $5,000 fine.
In addition, he must comply with the terms of his sex offender registration, including staying away from children other than his own.
Olmsted, who could not be reached for comment, will be closely monitored by a board compliance officer every three months, Wiggins said.
Carona said enforcement by the board has improved in recent years, "but people still, to this day, criticize and worry that the board is entirely too lenient on fellow physicians."
Board president Irvin E. Zeitler Jr. said leniency is "a very difficult question," because while the board's actions may appear weak, "from our perspective, it's the best job we can do."
Putting an offending physician under tight supervision quickly is often better than revoking his license, which could take several years, he said.
"Our goal is patient protection."
Mari Robinson, executive director of the board, noted that state law allows automatic revocations and suspensions only for convictions, not deferred adjudications. Olmsted received deferred adjudication in criminal court.
"Should the Legislature determine that deferred adjudications should be treated the same as convictions under the board suspension or revocation statute, it would allow the board to act more quickly," Robinson said.
Meanwhile, the mother of the victim in Olmsted's indecency with a child case said she was grateful Carona is looking into the problem. "If something good could come from this, that would be wonderful."
© Copyright 2009 The Dallas Morning News, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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