In 1995, Patrick Griffin, a Manhattan gastroenterologist, was indicted on charges of sodomizing a 42-year-old female patient who alleged that as she was coming out of sedation after a colonoscopy, she discovered Griffin was performing oral sex on her.
Griffin rejected an offer from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office to plead guilty to a misdemeanor sex offense in return for probation—which would have cost him his license. Griffin asserted his innocence and passed a polygraph examination.
In 1996, he went on trial in New York County Supreme Court. The patient testified that she began seeing Griffin in 1991 for stomach problems. Over the next three years, she said she regularly visited Griffin for treatment. She said that on the morning of January 13, 1995, she came to his private office for a scheduled upper endoscopy and a colonoscopy.
The woman testified that during the colonoscopy, she was under heavy sedation, but partially awoke after the procedure was finished to find Griffin’s mouth on her vagina.
The prosecution presented a recording of a conversation secretly recorded by the woman during a visit to Griffin’s office after she went to authorities. On the tape, Griffin emphatically denied sodomizing her, but did admit—falsely, he later claimed—that he had kissed her on the cheek on the way out of the office on that day.
Griffin also was charged with falsifying his records by writing a summary of that conversation that prosecutors said differed dramatically from the taped conversation. Prosecutors contended the notes showed a consciousness of guilt.
The defense, through cross-examination, sought to undermine the woman’s credibility by stressing a motive to make a false accusation. The woman had been evicted from her apartment in 1991 and blamed her stomach distress on the landlord. She had filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the landlord and wanted Griffin to be an expert witness and testify that her stomach problems were directly linked to the eviction, but Griffin had declined to testify for her.
The judge barred the defense from questioning the woman about allegedly false statements that she had made under oath at an administrative hearing on her landlord-tenant dispute, as well as prior meritless lawsuits she had filed involving her dire financial condition and a $10 million lawsuit the woman had filed against Griffin.
The prosecution presented the testimony of a medical expert who said it was possible that the patient had awakened from the sedation, but was still too groggy to react physically to the alleged assault.
The defense presented evidence that the colonoscopy was completed at the time of the alleged abuse and stressed the unlikelihood that Griffin would engage in oral sex when the area was contaminated with fecal matter produced by the colonoscopy.
Griffin testified and denied he sodomized the patient. The prosecution questioned him about an alleged romantic relationship with a different patient from March to July 1991. The prosecutor asked if Griffin had masturbated in front of the woman when she sought to break off the relationship, despite the fact that introducing this question was in direct violation of a court order. A defense request for a mistrial was denied.
On June 18, 1996, a jury convicted Griffin of sodomy and falsifying a business record. He was sentenced to 3 years and four months to 10 years in prison.
In 1998, the Appellate Division of the New York County Supreme Court reversed the conviction and ordered a new trial. The court ruled that the defense should have been allowed to present the evidence of the patient’s lawsuits—including her lawsuit against Griffin—as well as evidence of lawsuits filed against her alleging at least 20 bounced checks and three occasions where she allegedly testified falsely in her landlord dispute. The court also ruled that the prosecution had violated a court order by introducing the alleged masturbation incident before the jury.
Griffin, who had lost his physician’s license in 1996 after his conviction, went on trial for a second time in April 2000. The patient again testified and was cross-examined in depth about her finances and alleged false statements.
Griffin again denied the sexual assault. The defense also presented evidence that the medication and sedatives the woman was given on the day of the colonoscopy can lead patients to experience sexual fantasies.
On April 11, 2000, the jury acquitted Griffin.
– Maurice Possley