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Sexual assault charges dropped against Allegany doctor

Former Catonsville doctor William Dando will not face trial for sexual assault allegations after agreeing never to practice medicine in Maryland again.

Allegany County prosecutors dropped charges against him Tuesday, citing two factors — the "he said, she said" nature of the case and his decision to surrender his medical license. Dando had been scheduled to stand trial Wednesday in an incident in which a 41-year-old patient said he touched her genitals while treating her for an ear infection at an urgent-care center near Cumberland.

The woman's lawyer and an advocate for sexual assault survivors expressed frustration with prosecutors' decision not to proceed.

"The victim is tremendously disappointed the state didn't prosecute the case," said Edward Delaney, a Cumberland lawyer who represents the woman, a married mother who lives in Allegany County.

The woman's allegations triggered revelations that Dando had been convicted of raping a woman at gunpoint in Florida in 1987. Dando served less than four years of a 10-year sentence in Florida prisons because of good behavior.

Maryland health officials have said they did not know about the conviction when they licensed Dando in 1996, and that he would not have been licensed had they known. Efforts to learn how that happened and to prevent similar oversights in the future are under way.

An investigation by The Baltimore Sun showed that Dando slipped through cracks in state reviews at least five times.

Dando's lawyer, Steven Friend, said his client was pleased to see the charges dropped. Dando had pleaded not guilty to the charges, and Friend said that after reviewing the evidence, he didn't think the state had a strong case.

Jacqueline Brandlen, a senior assistant state's attorney for Allegany County, acknowledged as much in a pretrial hearing Tuesday in Allegany County Circuit Court.

"It was always a 'he said, she said' case," she told Associate Judge W. Timothy Finan in explaining the decision not to proceed.

Brandlen said she met with the woman and worked with the state attorney general's office to explore options, and that the woman was "very happy" that Dando would lose his license as part of the case resolution.

But Delaney, the woman's lawyer, said she wanted to see him prosecuted.

Dando, who attended the hearing, did not speak. The woman was not present, Brandlen said.

The woman is one of at least three to accuse Dando of sexual assault. A state Board of Physicians investigation into the alleged April incident found that another woman had complained that Dando had touched her inappropriately in January. He is facing a civil lawsuit alleging that he sexually assaulted a third female patient in September 2013.

Brandlen said there are no other pending criminal charges against Dando.

Lisae C. Jordan, executive director of the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said a failure to prosecute alleged sex offenders is disappointing. The coalition has supported legislation that would expand the statute of limitations in cases of sexual assault by health care providers beyond one year, but the bills have failed, she said.

"The criminal justice system is how we as a society say, 'That's something that is wrong and should be prohibited,'" Jordan said. "It's a very important part of the justice system for sexual assault survivors."

Dando's medical license had been set to expire at the end of this month, but under a letter he sent to the Board of Physicians on Aug. 20, he agreed to give it up to avoid further prosecution by board officials. The board had suspended his license in June after his indictment in Allegany County. On Tuesday, officials accepted the surrender and posted it online.

State health officials meanwhile are investigating how Dando, a longtime Catonsville family practitioner, was able to receive a medical license in Maryland in 1996 despite the 1987 rape conviction in Florida. The state health department's inspector general began that effort in June, and it is ongoing, spokeswoman Karen Black said.

The physicians board does not regularly conduct background checks of doctors, but its chairman, Dr. Devinder Singh, said board leaders plan to propose a bill in the 2015 General Assembly session that would require such investigations at the time of application and at regular intervals after that.

sdance@baltsun.com

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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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