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Doctor charged with sex assault

August 14, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A 71-year-old Martinsburg doctor was charged with a felony count of sexual assault Wednesday after a female patient alleged he assaulted her in her home more than a year ago, according to court records.

Harry Alfred Spalt, of 605 Foxcroft Ave., cooperated with police and gave a statement claiming the sexual encounter with the woman was consensual, said the lead investigator in the case, Sgt. Russell Shackelford of the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department.

Spalt is a neurologist with an office on Oates Drive.

Police became involved when the alleged victim, a 39-year-old Martinsburg woman, filed a complaint May 12. She alleged the incident happened May 7, 2002. Shackelford declined to say why the woman waited more than a year to contact police.

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The woman told police she had been Spalt's patient for several years, but that in recent years he had become more aggressive.

The woman alleged "that often her exams were simply an opportunity for Dr. Spalt to fondle her breast and speak to her about her sexual activities," Shackelford wrote in a two-page criminal complaint.

Despite those allegations, the woman told police she continued to see Spalt because she was worried she would not be able to find another doctor, according to court records.

The woman said that on May 7, 2002, she called Spalt because of severe back pain. Spalt went to the woman's home and took her to City Hospital where, at around 1:30 a.m., she was treated and given an injection of 100 milligrams of Demerol and 50 milligrams of Phenergan, said Shackelford, who reviewed the hospital's records.

After her treatment, the woman said she became sleepy and remembered Spalt walking her down a hospital hallway. The next thing she remembered, the woman alleged to police, she was in her bed with her clothes off and a nightgown on, records show. Spalt was in bed with her and had taken off his shoes and some of his clothes, records allege.

The woman alleged to police that Spalt caressed her and used his hand to sexually assault her until she yelled at him and demanded he leave. She told police that he apologized, gathered his clothes and left, records show.

Spalt described a similar encounter with the woman, but said he believed it to be consensual, Shackelford said.

"He confirmed that an incident did occur and he described it as she did," Shackelford said. "Something occurred and it's a question of consent. He felt it was consensual and she didn't. Obviously, it comes down to who's believed."

No prior criminal charges surfaced against Spalt and police have not received any additional complaints about him, Shackelford said. Spalt, who agreed to turn himself in to police, told Shackelford that he felt he had crossed the line in a doctor-patient relationship, court records show.

Magistrate Joan Bragg arraigned Spalt on the felony charge Wednesday afternoon.

Bragg explained to Spalt that he could hire an attorney or ask for a court-appointed one. Spalt told her he probably will hire a lawyer, although he described himself as a "poor country doctor."

Spalt debated whether to post bond on his $10,000 bail or go to Martinsburg Correctional Center instead. Even after a bondsman arrived, Spalt was still trying to decide.

"Would I have my own cell in jail?" he asked Shackelford.

Eventually, Spalt said he would write a check for the bail, after the bondsman said he did not take credit cards.

A message left at Spalt's office was not returned and nobody answered the phone at his apartment.

Conviction of a charge of second-degree sexual assault carries a sentence of 10 to 25 years in prison.

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