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Long Island urologist faces trial and civil suits

Vaseline 1 month ago

A former Long Island urologist scheduled to go on trial Wednesday on federal criminal charges related to alleged sexual assault and abuse is facing suits from hundreds of ex-patients, including several who say they tried to warn his employers and state regulators years before his arrest.

Dr. Darius Paduch, 56, worked for Northwell Health in Great Neck and Lake Success from 2019 until his arrest in April 2023, and for at least 16 years before that for Weill Cornell Medicine in Manhattan, court documents say. 

He could spend life in prison if convicted on the federal charges, which, according to the indictment, are based on assault and abuse against six minors and two adults.

“During appointments, Paduch claimed that he needed to touch victims in certain ways to provide medical treatment, when in fact, Paduch sexually abused and assaulted those victims for no legitimate medical purpose and for his own sexual gratification,” the indictment states.

Former patients who filed civil suits against Paduch made similar accusations. 

One of them, Tucker Coburn, 26, said in an interview with Newsday and in court papers that he warned Northwell about the doctor in 2020. Emails supplied by Coburn’s attorney, Mallory Allen, show he had a telephone meeting with Northwell representatives in September 2020. Coburn said he didn’t recall hearing from Northwell again.

“It’s just really disheartening because I put myself out there and stepped forward to try to put some stop to it,” said Coburn, who said he was abused in 2016. Newsday does not identify alleged victims of sexual abuse without their consent. Coburn agreed to use his name.

Paduch, who had lived in North Bergen, New Jersey, before his arrest, currently is in the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn awaiting trial at U.S. District Court in Manhattan. He has pleaded not guilty. An attorney for him, New Jersey-based Michael Baldassare, declined to comment on the accusations.

Northwell, based in New Hyde Park, said in a statement: “We are deeply disturbed by the allegations against Dr. Darius Paduch and continue to cooperate fully with authorities in connection with their prosecution of him. Northwell takes complaints brought to our attention very seriously. Dr. Paduch is no longer affiliated with Northwell. Because this matter is the subject of a pending criminal case against Dr. Paduch and pending civil litigation, we are unable to comment further at this time.”

Weill Cornell also said in a statement that it is cooperating with law enforcement and is unable to comment at length because of legal proceedings.

“We take these matters very seriously,” the statement said. “The acts described are disturbing and appalling, and we feel deeply for those involved.”

Allen said 25 of her 130 clients who lodged civil suits against Paduch were abused after Coburn discussed with Northwell officials what he said Paduch did to him. Paduch saw patients even after Allen and other lawyers, who collectively represent hundreds of plaintiffs, began filing civil suits against the doctor in December 2022, she said.

There were other red flags that health systems and the state office in charge of disciplining doctors ignored, Allen and other attorneys said. Patients and employees of Weill Cornell lodged multiple complaints against Paduch starting in 2007, and a patient filed accusations with the state Department of Health’s Office of Professional Medical Conduct in 2018, lawyers said. There is no public record of any state action against Paduch until his medical license was suspended in May 2023, a month after his arrest.

James O’Connell, 37, of Maspeth, Queens, said Paduch began abusing him in March 2021.

The abuse occurred in an examination room in a Northwell building in Great Neck and at Northwell’s North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, O’Connell said.

O’Connell said it’s “disgusting and unforgivable” that Northwell allowed Paduch to continue practicing despite accusations he was sexually abusing patients.

“This guy should have been in prison, not in my hospital room,” he said in an interview.

Another man who said Paduch sexually abused him while at Northwell said in an interview that he is angry at Northwell because “they allowed him to continue being a predator. They enabled him.”

The man, whose alleged abuse began in December 2021, filed suit against Paduch and Northwell.

Heather Cucolo, a professor at New York Law School in Manhattan and an expert on sexual abuse and assault law, said the Paduch case is a prime example of institutional failure and a flawed process for protecting patients and disciplining doctors, within health systems, and at the state Department of Health. One reason hospitals don’t take action is it could draw attention to wrongdoing, she said.

“Reputation trumps patient safety,” she said.

After complaints are filed with the state, physicians participate in investigating complaints and form the majority on committees that decide guilt or innocence and potential punishment, and doctors often protect their own, Cucolo said. Doctors also are involved with investigating allegations at health systems, she said.

“It’s the fox watching the henhouse,” she said.

Health department spokeswoman Cadence Acquaviva said in an email that non-physicians also “fulfill major roles in the disciplinary process.”

“The mission of the Office of Professional Medical Conduct is to protect the public,” Acquaviva said.

Paduch’s specialties included male infertility, erectile dysfunction and genital abnormalities.

Those specialties “unquestionably made it easier for him to get away with this,” because victims were more easily convinced that Paduch’s actions were part of their medical treatment or examinations, said Allen, who has offices in Manhattan and Seattle.

Manhattan attorney Thomas Giuffra, who represents more than 20 alleged victims, said patients who turned to Paduch to help them have children or resolve sexual problems were in “very vulnerable states.”

“So if a doctor who was at Cornell, at Northwell, is telling you, ‘Look, I need to show you how to masturbate because that will increase your sperm sample,’ people who are desperate enough and are going through the challenges of having a baby, they are going to go along with that,” Giuffra said, referring to accusations about how Paduch inappropriately touched his clients. “And he thrived on that.”

O’Connell said he had researched Paduch online after first seeing him in the North Shore emergency department, and before undergoing treatment and later surgery for medical conditions that caused extreme pain in his testicles and fertility problems. He found many accolades for Paduch, but no sexual abuse allegations.

Paduch repeatedly grabbed and fondled O’Connell’s genitals, penetrated him with his finger multiple times — claiming it was a prostate exam — and made sexual jokes, O’Connell’s lawsuit against Paduch and Northwell alleges.

O’Connell said when Paduch was touching him, he thought, “‘Yeah, that seems a little weird, but there’s got to be a reason he’s doing it.’”

He said he did not realize what happened to him was abuse, rather than legitimate medical examinations and treatment, until last summer, when he saw a television advertisement from a law firm soliciting former patients of Paduch who were sexually abused. 

Allen said she is aware of about 500 plaintiffs in civil suits against Paduch and believes he likely abused thousands of patients, because only a fraction of sexual abuse victims typically file lawsuits.

O’Connell said after Paduch’s arrest, he received a form letter from Northwell stating the urologist was no longer affiliated with the health system. There was no mention of the arrest or the accusations against him. A copy of the letter that Allen provided lists Paduch’s separation from Northwell as April 11, 2023 — the date of his arrest. 

O’Connell said the letter shows “they don’t care about their patients.”

The federal criminal indictment alleges, in addition to abusing patients on Long Island and in Manhattan, Paduch lured some patients to his New Jersey home and boat and abused them there.

The federal charges include seven counts of inducing a person to travel to engage in unlawful sexual activity and six counts of inducing a minor to engage in unlawful sexual activity.

Some of the civil suits include allegations of sexual abuse or assault that are illegal under state law.

Nassau County police would only investigate such allegations if a police report were filed, police spokesman Lt. Richard LeBrun said. There is no record of a report filed against Paduch, he said.

The NYPD said in a statement that it encourages alleged sexual assault victims to file police reports but did not respond to questions as to whether any were filed against Paduch.

Many of the civil suits were filed under the 2022 Adult Survivors Act, which gave alleged victims of adult sexual abuse and assault a one-year window — ending in November — to file suits even if the alleged offenses happened years ago.

Some of the alleged criminal conduct in those civil suits is beyond the criminal statute of limitations, said attorney Adam Slater, whose firm is based in Melville and Manhattan and represents about 75 alleged Paduch victims.

Coburn, who lives in the Ithaca area, said when Paduch began to abuse him during a 2016 appointment at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan, he knew the doctor’s actions went beyond medical treatment for his genetic condition. In addition, when Paduch pressed against him, he could tell the doctor was aroused, Coburn said.

After learning Paduch was working for Northwell, Coburn said he contacted the health system and, in September 2020, had a teleconference with several officials. Emails provided by Allen indicate  a Northwell human resources manager scheduled a teleconference with Coburn and “physician leadership” about a letter he sent the health system, although the emails don’t detail the contents of the letter.

Coburn said Northwell promised an investigation but doesn’t recall anyone from Northwell contacting him again.

“I was very hopeful that he would be let go and would not have access to patients anymore, at the very least,” he said.

Coburn also said, in 2020, he informed a nurse at NewYork-Presbyterian of his abuse.

The lawsuit Coburn filed against Paduch alleges multiple previous complaints by others to NewYork-Presbyterian about Paduch.

In addition, Giuffra said, about 15 years ago a client who later filed a lawsuit against Paduch, Weill Cornell and NewYork-Presbyterian complained to one female and one male doctor in the Weill Cornell urology department about Paduch. The physicians were dismissive, Giuffra said.

“He was pooh-poohed that he didn’t understand that it was part of medical treatment,” Giuffra said one doctor told his client. “Another answer was, ‘Oh, he was under anesthesia at the time and he probably misunderstood what happened.’ ”

NewYork-Presbyterian referred queries to Weill Cornell because, a statement said, “Darius Paduch was employed by Weill Cornell Medicine, not NewYork-Presbyterian.”

A lawsuit filed on behalf of 58 alleged Paduch victims accuses him not only of sexual abuse but of performing unnecessary surgical procedures, often without anesthesia, “in an effort to inflict pain (on) the patients, and (he) then dispensed copious opioid medication in an effort to get his patients addicted so that he could better manipulate, control, exploit, and abuse them.”

The 2018 complaint to the state was of alleged abuse that occurred in 2006 and 2007 at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell. In the state complaint, the man said he also told an attorney at NewYork-Presbyterian about the alleged abuse.

Allen, who now represents the man, said the state never informed her client of the results of the investigation.

The Department of Health said in a statement that Office of Professional Medical Conduct investigative files are confidential, as are complaints that are dismissed or closed.

No action was taken against Paduch until Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald suspended his license a month after his arrest, the state physician discipline website shows.

Years after their alleged sexual abuse, Paduch’s former patients said they continue to endure the emotional scars.

The man whose alleged abuse started in December 2021 said he still deals with anger, shame and embarrassment, and the trauma has affected his sexual relationship with his wife.

O’Connell said he has flashbacks to what Paduch did to him, and persistent fears of what could have happened to him when he was under anesthesia on the operating table. He becomes anxious when he takes his daughter and 10-month-old son for medical visits.

“It’s a hell of a lot harder to hand my son over to a doctor, or allow a doctor to physically touch my 5-year-old daughter,” even if it’s just making sure the lymph nodes in her neck are normal, he said.

He said he has to fight to reassure himself that the pediatrician’s actions are a normal part of a physical exam — because Paduch had made O’Connell believe there were medical reasons for what O’Connell said he later realized was abuse.

“My trust in the medical system has been altered forever,” he said.

A former Long Island urologist scheduled to go on trial Wednesday on federal criminal charges related to alleged sexual assault and abuse is facing suits from hundreds of ex-patients, including several who say they tried to warn his employers and state regulators years before his arrest.

Dr. Darius Paduch, 56, worked for Northwell Health in Great Neck and Lake Success from 2019 until his arrest in April 2023, and for at least 16 years before that for Weill Cornell Medicine in Manhattan, court documents say. 

He could spend life in prison if convicted on the federal charges, which, according to the indictment, are based on assault and abuse against six minors and two adults.

“During appointments, Paduch claimed that he needed to touch victims in certain ways to provide medical treatment, when in fact, Paduch sexually abused and assaulted those victims for no legitimate medical purpose and for his own sexual gratification,” the indictment states.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • Dr. Darius Paduch, a urologist who according to court documents worked for Northwell Health until his arrest in April 2023, is scheduled to go on trial in federal court Wednesday on charges related to alleged sexual assault and abuse of patients.
  • In addition, hundreds of former patients have filed suits against Paduch, who legal documents say worked for Northwell in Great Neck and Lake Success from 2019 to 2023 and for Weill Cornell Medicine in Manhattan from 2003 to 2019.
  • Attorneys and ex-patients say Northwell and Weill Cornell were warned about Paduch but continued to allow him to see patients. In addition, a patient filed a complaint against Paduch with the state in 2018 but his license was not suspended until after his 2023 arrest.

Former patients who filed civil suits against Paduch made similar accusations. 

One of them, Tucker Coburn, 26, said in an interview with Newsday and in court papers that he warned Northwell about the doctor in 2020. Emails supplied by Coburn’s attorney, Mallory Allen, show he had a telephone meeting with Northwell representatives in September 2020. Coburn said he didn’t recall hearing from Northwell again.

“It’s just really disheartening because I put myself out there and stepped forward to try to put some stop to it,” said Coburn, who said he was abused in 2016. Newsday does not identify alleged victims of sexual abuse without their consent. Coburn agreed to use his name.

It’s just really disheartening because I put myself out there and stepped forward to try to put some stop to it.

—Former patient Tucker Coburn

Credit: Tucker Coburn

Paduch, who had lived in North Bergen, New Jersey, before his arrest, currently is in the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn awaiting trial at U.S. District Court in Manhattan. He has pleaded not guilty. An attorney for him, New Jersey-based Michael Baldassare, declined to comment on the accusations.

Northwell, based in New Hyde Park, said in a statement: “We are deeply disturbed by the allegations against Dr. Darius Paduch and continue to cooperate fully with authorities in connection with their prosecution of him. Northwell takes complaints brought to our attention very seriously. Dr. Paduch is no longer affiliated with Northwell. Because this matter is the subject of a pending criminal case against Dr. Paduch and pending civil litigation, we are unable to comment further at this time.”

Weill Cornell also said in a statement that it is cooperating with law enforcement and is unable to comment at length because of legal proceedings.

“We take these matters very seriously,” the statement said. “The acts described are disturbing and appalling, and we feel deeply for those involved.”

Allen said 25 of her 130 clients who lodged civil suits against Paduch were abused after Coburn discussed with Northwell officials what he said Paduch did to him. Paduch saw patients even after Allen and other lawyers, who collectively represent hundreds of plaintiffs, began filing civil suits against the doctor in December 2022, she said.

There were other red flags that health systems and the state office in charge of disciplining doctors ignored, Allen and other attorneys said. Patients and employees of Weill Cornell lodged multiple complaints against Paduch starting in 2007, and a patient filed accusations with the state Department of Health’s Office of Professional Medical Conduct in 2018, lawyers said. There is no public record of any state action against Paduch until his medical license was suspended in May 2023, a month after his arrest.

Read the complaint submitted to the Department of Health

Newsday has redacted some information.

Abuse at Great Neck examination room

James O’Connell, 37, of Maspeth, Queens, said Paduch began abusing him in March 2021.

The abuse occurred in an examination room in a Northwell building in Great Neck and at Northwell’s North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, O’Connell said.

O’Connell said it’s “disgusting and unforgivable” that Northwell allowed Paduch to continue practicing despite accusations he was sexually abusing patients.

This guy should have been in prison, not in my hospital room.

—Former patient James O’Connell

Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

“This guy should have been in prison, not in my hospital room,” he said in an interview.

Another man who said Paduch sexually abused him while at Northwell said in an interview that he is angry at Northwell because “they allowed him to continue being a predator. They enabled him.”

The man, whose alleged abuse began in December 2021, filed suit against Paduch and Northwell.

Heather Cucolo, a professor at New York Law School in Manhattan and an expert on sexual abuse and assault law, said the Paduch case is a prime example of institutional failure and a flawed process for protecting patients and disciplining doctors, within health systems, and at the state Department of Health. One reason hospitals don’t take action is it could draw attention to wrongdoing, she said.

“Reputation trumps patient safety,” she said.

After complaints are filed with the state, physicians participate in investigating complaints and form the majority on committees that decide guilt or innocence and potential punishment, and doctors often protect their own, Cucolo said. Doctors also are involved with investigating allegations at health systems, she said.

“It’s the fox watching the henhouse,” she said.

Health department spokeswoman Cadence Acquaviva said in an email that non-physicians also “fulfill major roles in the disciplinary process.”

“The mission of the Office of Professional Medical Conduct is to protect the public,” Acquaviva said.

Doctor’s specialties ‘made it easier’

Dr. Darius Paduch, a Northwell Health urologist who is accused of...

Dr. Darius Paduch, a Northwell Health urologist who is accused of sexually abusing his patients from 2019-2023, practiced at 1000 Northern Blvd. in Great Neck. Credit: Newsday

Paduch’s specialties included male infertility, erectile dysfunction and genital abnormalities.

Those specialties “unquestionably made it easier for him to get away with this,” because victims were more easily convinced that Paduch’s actions were part of their medical treatment or examinations, said Allen, who has offices in Manhattan and Seattle.

Manhattan attorney Thomas Giuffra, who represents more than 20 alleged victims, said patients who turned to Paduch to help them have children or resolve sexual problems were in “very vulnerable states.”

“So if a doctor who was at Cornell, at Northwell, is telling you, ‘Look, I need to show you how to masturbate because that will increase your sperm sample,’ people who are desperate enough and are going through the challenges of having a baby, they are going to go along with that,” Giuffra said, referring to accusations about how Paduch inappropriately touched his clients. “And he thrived on that.”

O’Connell said he had researched Paduch online after first seeing him in the North Shore emergency department, and before undergoing treatment and later surgery for medical conditions that caused extreme pain in his testicles and fertility problems. He found many accolades for Paduch, but no sexual abuse allegations.

Paduch repeatedly grabbed and fondled O’Connell’s genitals, penetrated him with his finger multiple times — claiming it was a prostate exam — and made sexual jokes, O’Connell’s lawsuit against Paduch and Northwell alleges.

O’Connell said when Paduch was touching him, he thought, “‘Yeah, that seems a little weird, but there’s got to be a reason he’s doing it.’”

He said he did not realize what happened to him was abuse, rather than legitimate medical examinations and treatment, until last summer, when he saw a television advertisement from a law firm soliciting former patients of Paduch who were sexually abused. 

Allen said she is aware of about 500 plaintiffs in civil suits against Paduch and believes he likely abused thousands of patients, because only a fraction of sexual abuse victims typically file lawsuits.

O’Connell said after Paduch’s arrest, he received a form letter from Northwell stating the urologist was no longer affiliated with the health system. There was no mention of the arrest or the accusations against him. A copy of the letter that Allen provided lists Paduch’s separation from Northwell as April 11, 2023 — the date of his arrest. 

Read the letter to patients

O’Connell said the letter shows “they don’t care about their patients.”

The federal criminal indictment alleges, in addition to abusing patients on Long Island and in Manhattan, Paduch lured some patients to his New Jersey home and boat and abused them there.

The federal charges include seven counts of inducing a person to travel to engage in unlawful sexual activity and six counts of inducing a minor to engage in unlawful sexual activity.

Some of the civil suits include allegations of sexual abuse or assault that are illegal under state law.

Nassau County police would only investigate such allegations if a police report were filed, police spokesman Lt. Richard LeBrun said. There is no record of a report filed against Paduch, he said.

The NYPD said in a statement that it encourages alleged sexual assault victims to file police reports but did not respond to questions as to whether any were filed against Paduch.

Emails show meeting scheduled with Northwell

Many of the civil suits were filed under the 2022 Adult Survivors Act, which gave alleged victims of adult sexual abuse and assault a one-year window — ending in November — to file suits even if the alleged offenses happened years ago.

Some of the alleged criminal conduct in those civil suits is beyond the criminal statute of limitations, said attorney Adam Slater, whose firm is based in Melville and Manhattan and represents about 75 alleged Paduch victims.

Coburn, who lives in the Ithaca area, said when Paduch began to abuse him during a 2016 appointment at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan, he knew the doctor’s actions went beyond medical treatment for his genetic condition. In addition, when Paduch pressed against him, he could tell the doctor was aroused, Coburn said.

After learning Paduch was working for Northwell, Coburn said he contacted the health system and, in September 2020, had a teleconference with several officials. Emails provided by Allen indicate  a Northwell human resources manager scheduled a teleconference with Coburn and “physician leadership” about a letter he sent the health system, although the emails don’t detail the contents of the letter.

Coburn said Northwell promised an investigation but doesn’t recall anyone from Northwell contacting him again.

“I was very hopeful that he would be let go and would not have access to patients anymore, at the very least,” he said.

Coburn also said, in 2020, he informed a nurse at NewYork-Presbyterian of his abuse.

The lawsuit Coburn filed against Paduch alleges multiple previous complaints by others to NewYork-Presbyterian about Paduch.

In addition, Giuffra said, about 15 years ago a client who later filed a lawsuit against Paduch, Weill Cornell and NewYork-Presbyterian complained to one female and one male doctor in the Weill Cornell urology department about Paduch. The physicians were dismissive, Giuffra said.

“He was pooh-poohed that he didn’t understand that it was part of medical treatment,” Giuffra said one doctor told his client. “Another answer was, ‘Oh, he was under anesthesia at the time and he probably misunderstood what happened.’ ”

NewYork-Presbyterian referred queries to Weill Cornell because, a statement said, “Darius Paduch was employed by Weill Cornell Medicine, not NewYork-Presbyterian.”

A lawsuit filed on behalf of 58 alleged Paduch victims accuses him not only of sexual abuse but of performing unnecessary surgical procedures, often without anesthesia, “in an effort to inflict pain (on) the patients, and (he) then dispensed copious opioid medication in an effort to get his patients addicted so that he could better manipulate, control, exploit, and abuse them.”

The 2018 complaint to the state was of alleged abuse that occurred in 2006 and 2007 at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell. In the state complaint, the man said he also told an attorney at NewYork-Presbyterian about the alleged abuse.

Allen, who now represents the man, said the state never informed her client of the results of the investigation.

The Department of Health said in a statement that Office of Professional Medical Conduct investigative files are confidential, as are complaints that are dismissed or closed.

No action was taken against Paduch until Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald suspended his license a month after his arrest, the state physician discipline website shows.

Enduring emotional scars

Years after their alleged sexual abuse, Paduch’s former patients said they continue to endure the emotional scars.

The man whose alleged abuse started in December 2021 said he still deals with anger, shame and embarrassment, and the trauma has affected his sexual relationship with his wife.

O’Connell said he has flashbacks to what Paduch did to him, and persistent fears of what could have happened to him when he was under anesthesia on the operating table. He becomes anxious when he takes his daughter and 10-month-old son for medical visits.

“It’s a hell of a lot harder to hand my son over to a doctor, or allow a doctor to physically touch my 5-year-old daughter,” even if it’s just making sure the lymph nodes in her neck are normal, he said.

He said he has to fight to reassure himself that the pediatrician’s actions are a normal part of a physical exam — because Paduch had made O’Connell believe there were medical reasons for what O’Connell said he later realized was abuse.

“My trust in the medical system has been altered forever,” he said.