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Psychiatrist Faces Inquiry by State Medical Board : Allegations: Roger Palmieri is accused of cocaine use, having sex with a patient. His arraignment on separate drug and weapons charges is today.

August 12, 1993|JODI WILGOREN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Newport Beach psychiatrist, scheduled to be arraigned today on drug possession and weapons charges, is under investigation by the California Medical Board for alleged drug use, negligence and having sex with a patient, medical officials said Wednesday.

Dr. Roger J. Palmieri, 47, has been suspended from practicing pending a hearing on the allegations, said board spokeswoman Candis Cohen. A hearing date hasn't been scheduled yet.

A report by a medical board investigator contends that Palmieri spoke of personal problems during therapy sessions, had an affair with a client, and took two rings from her to buy cocaine.

Palmieri on Wednesday denied the allegations, saying a disgruntled former girlfriend made false claims to authorities to damage his career and his reputation.

"I've had a long career of helping people, of doing a lot of good for people," he said. "I've been under a lot of stress. This is all based on one person's attempt to stir up some trouble for me."

The complaints center on Vicki Sauer, 35, a Newport Beach woman and a former patient who alleged that Palmieri gave cocaine to her and another patient and borrowed money from them.

Sauer said Palmieri lived with her for four months.

"He was a really good doctor--professionally, he was the best I'd seen. I guess I loved him as a doctor," she said in an interview Wednesday. "I feel sorry for him. There was a good human being in there that's been destroyed, or that's destroying himself."

According to records of the medical board's investigation, released by the board Wednesday, Palmieri engaged in use of cocaine and had sex with a patient. At one point, the investigator's report, which didn't mention patient names, read: "The following morning, at 3 a.m. (he) came to her house. He sought her help in purchasing cocaine. Upon being unable to obtain cocaine (they) . . . engaged in sexual intercourse."

In separate proceedings, Palmieri will be arraigned today in Central Municipal Court on a felony charge of cocaine possession and misdemeanor charges of negligently firing a gun and possessing an opium pipe, according to authorities.

According to both court and medical board records, he was arrested Feb. 7 for allegedly shooting at his refrigerator because he was under the influence of drugs and thought there were intruders in his Newport Beach apartment.

His arraignment Thursday will also include a felony charge of cocaine possession from a separate incident in June, according to court records.

After working for several years at College Hospital-Costa Mesa, Palmieri was fired in February, a hospital spokesperson said.

Last week was the second time Palmieri's license was suspended since he registered with the state medical board in 1976, Cohen said.

In August, 1988, he was put on five years' probation and barred from practicing medicine for 60 days after engaging in questionable testing practices and letting unlicensed aides to draw blood and counsel patients at an Orange County laboratory dealing with allergy and dietary treatment, according to Cohen.

Times staff writers Matt Lait and Rene Lynch and correspondent Jon Nalick contributed to this report.

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