Essex County doctor found guilty of harassment but acquitted on sexual assault charges

Raymond Russomanno, a Bloomfield doctor charged with inappropriately touching the breasts and buttocks of several of his female patients, was found guilty in December on 12 counts of harassment but was acquitted on 2 counts of attempted sexual assault and 12 counts of criminal sexual contact. Russomanno faces up to 30 days in jail for each count of harassment, or up to 360 days total. He’s also awaiting sentencing for a 2011 conviction for 4 counts of criminal sexual contact and will be sentenced for both convictions simultaneously.

 

Although the doctor in this case was acquitted of attempted sexual assault, it’s possible that such an offense could be found in the doctor-patient context. As set forth in N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2, an actor would be guilty of the crime if he attempted to commit an act of sexual penetration in circumstances where the victim was detained in a hospital or other institution and the actor had some supervisory or disciplinary power over the victim by virtue of his legal, professional, or occupational status. Proving that a patient is “detained” and subject to a doctor’s “supervisory” powers is a difficult task, and likely the reason why these charges were dismissed.

 

Criminal sexual contact is a less serious offense and generally covers inappropriate sexual touching, but some aggravating factor usually has to be in play for the offense to apply, such as the use of force or the involvement of children. For adult victims who have already consented to be examined by a doctor, even criminal sexual contact could be a difficult charge to prove, especially if the nature of the medical examination being performed called for some touching of the victim’s body. The charge could still be sustained in this type of case given enough evidence, however. Indeed, the article noted that Russomanno was convicted of criminal sexual contact in an earlier case also involving alleged sexual abuse of his patients.

 

In the end, Russomanno was convicted only for harassment, which isn’t usually considered a sex offense. Harassment, rather, is a petty disorderly persons offense that occurs when a person subjects another to striking, kicking, shoving, or other offensive touching, or threatens to do so. As the article noted, harassment is punishable by up to 30 days per count.