Police did not have probable cause to arrest a Great Neck oncologist accused by a patient of forcible touching and sexual abuse, a Nassau judge wrote in a decision on Friday, describing the investigation as akin to a “fishing expedition.”
Police arrested Dr. Dwight De Risi, 71, a breast surgeon in private practice at Long Island Breast Care in Great Neck and a clinical assistant professor at the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell, in June and charged him with the pair of misdemeanors.
The unnamed victim had alleged De Risi had kissed her on the mouth, rubbed her inner leg and stomach and told her that she “did good,” according to court documents.
Nassau County District Court Judge Valerie Alexander said in her decision that the investigation by police was lacking and that prosecutors have “not met their burden of proving probable cause for this arrest.”
Alexander also faulted the conduct of the detective who investigated the allegations of sexual abuse.
“…Rather than investigating the allegations further, he precipitously arrested the defendant at midnight the following day, at a time when the defendant could not easily obtain representation,” Alexander wrote. “Then, having arrested him, the detective launched into a fishing expedition which the court can only find to have been an effort on the part of the detective to elicit an incriminating statement.”
John Carman, De Risi’s defense attorney, described the development as “significant.”
“The Court’s written decision was significant because it explains why the police had no legal cause to arrest Dr. De Risi,” Carman said. “The defense will file a motion to dismiss on that basis.”
Miriam Sholder, a spokeswoman for the Nassau DA’s office, said prosecutors plan to file a motion to re-argue the case.
According to court records, the plaintiff told police that a nurse was present during the alleged encounter. But no investigative work was done afterward to verify this, Alexander said, and De Risi was arrested “in the dead of night” based only on the criminal complaint.
De Risi, when confronted about the alleged kissing incident by a detective, allegedly said he “hugs and kisses all of his patients, that he is Italian, had been doing it for thirty-seven (37) years,” according to court documents.
There was then a 10- to a 15-minute conversation about “the appropriateness of the defendant’s actions,” Alexander wrote, none of which “was memorialized by a detective.”
After being taken into custody, Alexander says, the detective asked “vague and generalized questions” in what seemed to be an attempt “to entrap him in an incriminating statement rather than to ascertain the circumstances surrounding the events in question.”
This effectively denied him the right to an attorney, Alexander wrote, and ordered statements made to the detective suppressed.
Alexander also wrote that intent matters, especially considering De Risi’s profession as a doctor, and that it was “incumbent upon the detective to determine that the alleged touching was done with an ulterior motive.”
When news of his arrest broke in June, several patients rallied to his defense.
Commenters had characterized him as a man of compassion, caring and professionalism while sharing stories of breast cancer survival and blasting the allegations.
Members of the Friends of Dr. Dwight De Risi group, a public Facebook group formed in October with over 400 members, described the judge’s recent decision as “great news.”