By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
In what is being called the largest sexual abuse case in the state’s history, a Delaware grand jury indicted a popular pediatrician yesterday on 103 counts of sexual abuse of children.
The Associated Press is reporting that a Sussex County grand jury charged Dr. Earl Bradley, 56, of Lewes with more than 400 counts of criminal conduct. Bradley, who was arrested in December, was originally charged with 29 felony counts, including rape and sexual exploitation of a child, for allegedly abusing nine children.
However, a search of the doctor’s office and house uncovered videotapes he made of the abuse, which substantially increased the number of victims.
According to a detailed report by ABC News at the time of Bradley’s arrest in December, the crimes came to light after a two year-old girl told her mother that Bradley had “hurt her” during a Dec. 7 appointment. Court documents say Bradley initially examined the child in her mother’s presence, but then “removed the victim to the basement of the office, where a toy room is located.”
The child’s mother said she allowed Bradley to be alone with her daughter because he was a doctor and she trusted him.
But on the way home, the child told her mother that the doctor had hurt her in the basement. The girls’ father, who had taken her to see Bradley a month earlier, said his daughter made the same complaint after the visit.
The parents went to the authorities and an investigation ensued in which videotapes of the abuse, which took place in several areas within the doctor’s office, were found.
One examination room, known as the Pinocchio Room because of its decorations, was seen frequently on the tapes as Bradley abused his patients – one as young as 3 months old.
Another room, decorated with a “Little Mermaid” theme, was also the scene of abuse by Bradley who investigators say can be seen muffling the screams of the children while their parents sat in waiting rooms nearby.
In one tape, the six-foot, 225-pound Bradley allegedly had a “violently enraged expression on his face” as he yelled at a 2-year-old to perform sexual acts on him. That particular video was described by the investigating officer in court documents as “one of the most violent and brutal attacks on a child of any age” that he had ever seen.
What makes this story even more appalling is that Bradley was under investigation previously for suspected child sex abuse. Two previous cases collapsed against the doctor. One occurred in 2005 when prosecutors did not file offensive-touching charges after Bradley was accused of “excessive kissing” of a three year-old. Another case fell apart in 2008 after a Superior Court judge refused to authorize a search warrant of the doctor’s premises after three parents complained of inappropriate touching of their children.
State Attorney General Beau Biden and Governor Jack Markell have both launched investigations to determine what went wrong in these earlier investigations of Bradley.
They have also ordered reviews to determine whether doctors, hospitals, state agencies or law enforcement authorities failed to comply with a state law that requires all such entities to report to the medical licensing board in writing within 30 days if they believe a doctor is or “may be” guilty of unprofessional conduct.
“I know that today’s indictment will reopen painful wounds for Lewes and the Sussex County community that has already been deeply traumatized,” Biden said after today’s indictment was handed down.
A trial in the case is expected later this year at the earliest. Unless Bradley can post the $2.9 million bail, he will remain at Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna.
If convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison.
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