Bail hiked for NY pediatrician facing sex charges

AP News
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Posted: Jul 15, 2011 2:12 PM
Bail hiked for NY pediatrician facing sex charges

A New York pediatrician charged with sexually abusing young female patients, including some who were secretly videotaped or photographed while naked, compiled a "how-to book" on molestation that he titled "Sex" and kept stored on his home computer, a prosecutor said Friday.

The book allegedly included his writings, plus passages from the ancient Indian sex manual, the Kama Sutra.

Dr. Rakesh Punn, 53, who was arrested in July 2010 on preliminary charges of videotaping patients, pleaded not guilty Friday to a 60-count indictment charging him with sexual abuse, assault, promoting a sexual performance by a child and unlawful surveillance.

Punn also is charged with running a prescription scam for obtaining chloral hydrate, a controlled substance that Nassau County Assistant District Attorney Jane Zwirn-Turkin described as a "date-rape" drug.

When he was first arrested, Punn was ordered held on $3.5 million bail, but prosecutors argued Friday for higher bail, noting that Punn has a 24-year-old wife living in India and should be considered a flight risk. They previously said that when he was arrested, Punn had a large amount of cash in his Bethpage home, as well as a forged international driver's license with his photo, but a false name and birth date.

County Court Judge William O'Brien agreed, setting a $10 million bond or $5 million cash bail.

Punn, who has not posted bail, was handcuffed and spoke quietly during the brief court proceeding, saying "not guilty" when the charges were read. Prosecutors said some of his victims were as young as 11, and were allegedly drugged with sedatives and blindfolded during the assaults. Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice has said most of Punn's patients were Indian and that as a physician he held a revered position in that community, where parents would trust him to examine their children in private.

It was during those examinations that some of the alleged abuse took place, prosecutors said.

Defense attorney Nick Marino argued against increasing bail, noting prosecutors have moved to freeze $6 million in assets belonging to the doctor, effectively forcing him to remain jailed until his trial.

"We recognize the severity of the charges," Marino said outside court. "An indictment is not evidence of guilt."

Beginning in 2007, Punn compiled video and still photos of at least five young girls in his office, prosecutors said. After having them disrobe, he covered their eyes with gauze and a blindfold and placed them on an examining table. He would then videotape or photograph his sexual contact with them. In many instances, Punn would give the girls a sedative to render them unconscious, she said.

At other times, Punn allegedly placed a small digital camera among items on his desk and then recorded victims exposing their breasts. The girls were told they were being given medically necessary examinations. On other occasions, the patients were told the procedures were part of "clinical trials" for undisclosed maladies.

He is also charged with making some of the girls sign a "contract" saying they were 18 years old and willing to perform numerous sexual acts.

Zwirn-Turkin also said Punn was the subject of an insurance fraud investigation, adding it was likely he would face additional criminal charges.