By Justin Fenton, The Baltimore Sun
8:09 PM EDT, March 26, 2014
The Johns Hopkins gynecologist suspected of surreptitiously recording patients had more than 1,200 video clips and images depicting them in states of undress, according to prosecutors, a collection investigators believe he amassed over the course of eight years.
The recordings — some made on tiny cameras hidden in pens and key fobs — appeared to have started around 2005 and continued until Dr. Nikita A. Levy was discovered, a spokesman for the Baltimore state's attorney's office said this week. Investigators found no evidence that he was sharing the images online.
"The conclusion is that he was engaged in this activity on his own," the spokesman, Mark Cheshire, said.
Levy committed suicide in February 2013 amid the inquiry, which was spurred by a colleague's allegations and stretched for nearly a year.
Until this week, authorities had revealed few specifics about the scope of Levy's activities, with police saying only that he was suspected of the recordings and that they had concluded their criminal investigation without charging anyone else.
Still, the number of victims is unclear. Cheshire said investigators could not be sure how many individuals are depicted in the hundreds of files. The case is now the subject of a class-action lawsuit involving thousands of patients who fear they were victims; lawyers for Johns Hopkins and the plaintiffs are engaged in settlement negotiations.
Previous cases in which doctors recorded their patients have led to multimillion-dollar payouts.
A class-action suit involving a Delaware pediatrician convicted of recording assaults on hundreds of children led to a $120 million settlement in 2012. That same year, a Connecticut hospital settled for about $50 million with 150 victims of an endocrinologist who used a medical study as a pretense to take obscene photographs of children.
Levy had been a doctor in the Johns Hopkins Community Medicine system since 1988, and Hopkins said it had identified 12,692 people who "may have been patients or otherwise treated" by him during that time, according to court records.
Gregory Dolin, co-director of the Center for Medicine and Law at the University of Baltimore, said that not all of Levy's patients may be eligible to be part of the class-action suit. "Saying, 'Dr. Levy treated me' can't be sufficient. You have to have an inkling that he mistreated you," Dolin said.
But because it could be difficult to determine who exactly was victimized, he said, a court could divide plaintiffs into a class of "actual injured people" and others who claim to be "generally harmed" by the situation.
Dolin said that because of the number of people potentially affected, a settlement might be "quite large."
"Even assuming the hospital did everything it could to prevent this from happening, I would imagine they still take the view that these women have been violated and need someone to apologize, and to compensate them," he said. "How much each will get, that's a separate issue."
Kim Hoppe, director of media relations for Johns Hopkins Medicine, said the continuing legal process limited the institution's ability to comment, and said "we remain saddened that a member of our ranks would violate doctor-patient trust."
The institution had no comment on the investigators' findings.
Among the items seized from Levy's home and office were six cameras concealed in pens and two cameras concealed in fobs, which can be attached to key chains. They also seized four computers and external hard drives.
Levy was terminated by Hopkins on Feb. 8, 2013, after allegations of secret surveillance were brought to the attention of hospital officials by a female colleague who had become suspicious of the pen he wore around his neck. Within days, his Towson-area home was searched by police.
He was found dead Feb. 18. He left a letter of apology to his wife before wrapping a plastic bag around his head and pumping it with helium.
Even after his death, the investigation continued because of concerns that he might have been working with others or sharing the images online. Police also were concerned that some victims may have been underage; Cheshire said the investigation determined that all of the people recorded were adults.
Last week, prosecutors said no one else would face charges in the Levy case.
Baltimore police said this month that the results of the investigation were sealed by a court order and referred questions to a civil judge. But an order in public court files only states that images of the victims be protected and turned over to a third-party company.
Court records show the plaintiffs and Johns Hopkins continue to work on a settlement. In court papers, the plaintiffs contend that Levy "engaged in doctor-patient boundary violations during the course of his patients' treatment," including "an excessive number of unnecessary pelvic exams and engaging in inappropriate physical contact."
They say Hopkins was negligent in its oversight of Levy, who practiced at the East Baltimore Medical Center, a community clinic near Hopkins Hospital.
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