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Mistrial Declared for Doctor Accused of Needless Surgeries

March 28, 1995|SUSAN MARQUEZ OWEN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SANTA ANA — The federal trial of ex-Tustin gynecologist Ivan C. Namihas ended in a hung jury Monday after emotionally exhausted jurors said they could not reach a verdict on any of the 10 mail fraud charges against him.

The jury's announcement, which resulted in a mistrial, came on the seventh day of deliberations that several jurors later described as highly emotional and fraught with shouting and even threats.

"I was surprised they (bailiffs) didn't come in to tell us to be quiet," said one juror, who declined to give his name. "It was truly a frustrating experience. You feel like you did a disservice to the community, the judge, the attorneys, the defendant and especially the victims--the victims placed their trust in us."

Namihas, once the subject of the largest medical sexual abuse investigation in state history, was charged with using the mail to bill six patients and their insurance companies to defraud them of more than $9,000 worth of unnecessary, expensive and painful laser surgery.

The doctor denied the charges and maintained that he had never purposefully misdiagnosed patients or given them inappropriate treatment.

The jury split 10 to 2 early in the deliberations in favor of convicting Namihas on all 10 counts, according to several jurors, all of whom agreed to be interviewed if their names were not used. But two jurors, a male postal worker and a female office worker, were adamant that Namihas should be acquitted. Both declined comment.

Other jurors said the two holdouts could not believe that a doctor would commit the crimes that Namihas was charged with, and one of them felt that the alleged victims were not credible.

Defense attorney Paul Meyer said Namihas was "very disappointed" in the outcome, which leaves open the possibility of a retrial on all 10 counts.

Namihas appeared to tremble as he left the courtroom and quickly left the courthouse with his wife, Rebecca.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Jonathan Shapiro said his superiors will decide by the end of the week whether to retry the case.

Namihas, who now lives in Las Vegas, was the subject of more than 160 sexual abuse complaints by former patients in 1992.

The allegations led to the revocation of Namihas' license by the Medical Board of California. Prosecutors, however, did not press sexual assault charges against the doctor, saying that the statute of limitations had expired in most of the cases and that they lacked corroborating evidence.

Several jurors said they hoped that Namihas would be retried.

Meyer responded: "This case could be retried 200 times and we're ready every time."

The trial was marked by sometimes emotional testimony from the six former patients who testified that Namihas had told them that they had cancer, AIDS or venereal diseases that other doctors and tests later disputed.

One woman testified that on her first visit to Namihas, he abruptly told her that she had AIDS without testing her. She said he later falsely told her that she had cancer, might never have children and could die if she did not allow him to treat her with laser surgery.

Namihas took the stand and contradicted his former patients. He said he told them that they had precancerous conditions, not cancer, and that they must have misunderstood him.

Several doctors testified that although laser surgery was not appropriate treatment for cancer, it was recommended treatment for precancerous conditions in the late 1980s, when Namihas was treating the patients in question.

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