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Magistrate drops sex assault charge against physician

August 27, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A magistrate on Tuesday dismissed a second-degree sexual assault charge filed against a Martinsburg doctor, saying the state did not provide enough of a factual basis for the case to proceed.

Harry Alfred Spalt, 71, of 605 Foxcroft Ave., was charged with the felony count Aug. 13 after a female patient told police he sexually assaulted her with his hand at her home more than a year earlier.

Before dismissing the charge Tuesday, Berkeley County Magistrate Carlton DeHaven listened to testimony from the woman who made the allegations and from Sgt. Russell Shackelford, an investigator with the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department.

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Spalt's attorney, B. Craig Manford, said after the hearing that he was pleased that probable cause was not found. "The doctor (is) very happy. He feels he's been vindicated," Manford said.

Spalt, a neurologist, has continued running his private practice, but his privileges at City Hospital were revoked pending the outcome of the hearing, Manford said.

Had probable cause been found, the case would have been forwarded to Circuit Court for possible grand jury indictment. Prosecutors can still present the case to a grand jury if they choose.

At the hearing, Shackelford testified that the 39-year-old Martinsburg woman first reported the alleged assault on May 12. She said the incident had happened a year earlier, on May 7, 2002.

The woman testified that she paged Spalt because she was suffering from severe back pain. Spalt picked her up at her Jennings Drive apartment and drove her to City Hospital, where, at around 1:30 a.m., Spalt authorized an injection of 100 mg of Demerol and 50 mg of Phenergan, records show. The woman was already taking 80 mg of OxyContin, according to testimony.

The woman said she was sleepy but remembered getting home and trying to unlock her apartment door with Spalt. The next thing she remembered, she testified, was waking up in her bed as she was being sexually assaulted.

Spalt did not testify.

Spalt told police that a sexual encounter occurred with the woman, but that he believed it was consensual, Shackelford said. Spalt also said he believed the encounter happened on July 4, 2001. On a written complaint the woman filed with medical authorities, she indicated it happened in June 2002.

DeHaven cited the questions concerning the date as one of his reasons for dismissing the charge.

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