A former Delaware pediatrician who decorated his office with Disney characters and miniature amusement park rides was found guilty Thursday of sexually abusing scores of his young patients.
Earl Bradley, 58, recorded homemade videos of the abuse, said prosecutors, who presented the judge with more than 13 hours of videos showing sex crimes against more than 80 victims, most of whom were toddlers.
Superior Court Judge William Carpenter Jr. announced the verdict in business-like fashion, avoiding any personal remarks about Bradley. An indictment against Bradley initially contained 470 counts, but attorneys agreed before the trial to consolidate them into 24 counts.
Bradley was found guilty on 14 counts of first-degree rape and five counts each of second-degree assault and sexual exploitation of a child.
Bradley, who will be sentenced on Aug. 26, faces up to life in prison on each rape charge.
He showed no reaction when the verdict was announced, but some of the spectators cried.
Carpenter presided over a one-day trial in which prosecutors called two witnesses and presented the judge with an external hard drive containing the videos, recorded from December 1998 to Dec. 13, 2009. Bradley was arrested after a 2-year-old girl told her mother the doctor hurt her after an office visit, an accusation that came just days before the last video was recorded.
In a footnote to his verdict, the judge wrote that he was unable to discern the video activity for one alleged victim and there was no video for another.
"However, because the evidence clearly established the filming of prohibited sexual acts knowingly being committed by the defendant against the other children listed in those counts, the failure to establish the conduct for these two children has no bearing on the guilt of the defendant as to these counts," Carpenter wrote.
Bradley waived his right to a jury trial after Carpenter denied a motion by defense attorneys to prevent the videos from being admitted as evidence. The defense claims they were illegally seized.
The defense presented no case at trial so they could more quickly appeal the judge's decision allowing the videos to be used as evidence.
Attorney Dean Johnson reiterated Thursday that he would appeal the judge's decision after Bradley's sentencing. He declined further comment, citing a gag order that remains in effect until the sentencing.
Attorney General Beau Biden also wouldn't comment because of the gag order. Biden last year cited his desire to see the Bradley case to its conclusion as a reason for not seeking the U.S. Senate seat formerly held by his father, Vice President Joe Biden.
Biden and prosecutors huddled with victims' families behind closed doors after the verdict was read. Biden hugged one teary-eyed woman before she and other relatives of victims were ushered out the back door of the courthouse and escorted to their cars by uniformed guards. Two women who got into a van with two young girls declined to comment when approached by a reporter.
The case shocked the close-knit community of Lewes and the town of Milford, where Bradley closed an office in 2005 after police investigated him.
For years before his arrest, there were jokes among colleagues about Bradley, a quiet, unkempt man who had trouble looking adults in the eye but nevertheless gained some parents' trust. Bradley's own sister, who worked in his office, told police in 2005 that her brother was bipolar and taking medication from the office, and that several parents had complained to her about Bradley inappropriately touching patients.
Two pediatricians interviewed in 2005 also told investigators about complaints from Bradley's former patients. One who told police he had referred to Bradley as a "pedophile" explained to The Associated Press last year the reference was "more of a joke."
Authorities said after finishing exams at his Lewes office, he would offer his victims toys or treats, then assault them in the basement or a building out back where investigators found the videos.
The case created a wrenching dilemma for some families, pitting some spouses against each other, or parents against grandparents, as they wrestled with whether to cooperate with investigators and find out for certain if their children were among the victims in the videotapes. Guilt over leaving children alone with Bradley lurked in the background for some.
In the end, prosecutors were able to identify only 70 of the 86 children on the videotapes.
Reviews ordered by Gov. Jack Markell and the attorney general's office after Bradley's arrest found that state medical society officials, individual doctors and the Delaware Department of Justice violated state law by not reporting possible unprofessional behavior by him to the medical licensing board. The board itself was criticized for failing to act on information it did receive about Bradley.
Last year, Markell signed nine bills prompted by the Bradley case that tightened regulation of doctors and clarified the obligations of the medical and law-enforcement communities to report and communicate about suspected physician misconduct and child abuse.