Judge finds no probable cause in De Risi arrest

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Dr. Dwight De Risi faces charges of sexual abuse of a patient. (Photo from Long Island Breast Care)
Dr. Dwight De Risi faces charges of sexual abuse of a patient. (Photo from Long Island Breast Care)

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.”

5 COMMENTS

  1. After it’s all over, Dr.Derisi and family MUST bring a legal action against this person including the arresting officers and detectives for false accusations and arrest.
    In discovery there must be an investigation as to any ties between the accuser and police officers or detectives. To recover his legal fees.

  2. I know that I cannot speak for everyone when I make the following statement, but I also know that I do not stand alone. I am so exhausted by and disappointed in the women who post these cliché statements that all women should be believed when they make an accusation, and the power of those jumping on the bandwagon of the “me too” movement.

    The unfortunate fact is that there are women out there that make accusations that do not deserve to be believed or heard. These women who generalize take away from the power of the movement and the real victims who have been harassed, assaulted, raped and even murdered.

    I am no fool. I know there are bad men out there and that there are women that have been violated and deserve their voice to be heard, their story to be told and for there to be justice served.

    I also know, first hand now, that there are innocent men that get falsely accused and now become the victim of this movement. I am not talking about politics, but my father.

    I can no longer sit back and listen to these women who support every woman who comes forward with their “story”. Or the men and women who state their opinion about a situation without knowing the facts.

    I have never in my lifetime thought of a glass ceiling, a job that I could not do because I am a woman. I have always thought the complete opposite. I can do so many things because I am a woman and have used every gift I have to become a successful woman. I can do it all. I can have children, raise a family, work hard and build a career, maintain my household, care for my husband and make time for my family. I can be kind and a clear and independent thinker. I can teach my sons to be gentlemen and teach my daughter to respect herself and be proud of being a girl.

    I don’t have to believe and stand up for every woman that accuses some man of some act and I don’t have to put every man that has been accused into the box of condemnation.

    We live in America, the greatest country in the world, and yet I am terrified of the way we conduct ourselves on a daily basis.

    I am scared for my sons and what can become of them if some girl or woman decides one day to accuse them of something they haven’t done.

    My father, a brilliant, dedicated, compassionate cancer surgeon for 37 years with over 30,000 patients (almost all of whom are women), was helping a patient heal and performed a procedure on her with a nurse practitioner present in the room the entire time, who was holding this patient’s hand as the procedure was being done.

    One day later, my father was picked up at his home at midnight by a detective, interrogated and then arrested without any investigation and without the police even speaking to the eye witness who was present in the room and who the accuser acknowledged was watching the entire time. A man who has an impeccable reputation, who has saved 30,000 lives and is revered as one of the most brilliant compassionate surgeons in New York.

    It has now been 11 months since this false accusation that my father had been waiting for his justice to be served. He was in a holding pattern while his life unraveled. His patients who loved and supported him were not being heard or taken seriously. He was not able to work or do surgery or practice medicine or continue to help heal the thousands of women who he has worked tirelessly and devoted his life too for 7 months.

    Until your brother, father, son, nephew, uncle, best friend or husband are falsely accused – you may not appreciate how complicated our justice system can be. It can be biased, and as in any profession, there are people who only care about how they will be viewed by the public and how it will affect their own careers; their hesitation to do the right thing or face backlash from a movement that isn’t aware of, or worse disregards, the facts and the truth.

    We give them that power when we stand by every woman or man that accuses someone of poor behavior without looking at the whole story.

    If you looked at the life of the nurse practitioner who was present and watching during the time this act supposedly took place, and who unequivocally told the DA that this NEVER happened, and then looked at my father and his life’s accomplishments and the hundreds of letters, phone calls and posts that have been placed that show the kind of man he is, then this case should have been thrown out within hours. He has been back at work for only 4 months and has already seen over 1000 patients; all of whom know the man that he truly is.

    He is the most amazing man I know. He has dedicated his life to his patients. Growing up, and to this day, my father spends countless hours seeing patients and making sure everyone gets the time they need and deserve to understand their diagnosis and treatment.

    Even as a child I knew that my father had a special gift and that I had to share him with his patients. Over the years, these patients have become his, and in some cases, our extended family.

    I have heard from hundreds of woman and men throughout my 40 years of how wonderful my father is, how skilled he is as a surgeon, how dedicated he is, how brilliant and kind he is. These comments came so often and from so many walks of life it became the norm for me. Whether I was signing a credit card slip or giving my name to a doctor or the receptionist it would be the same conversation – “do you have any relationship to Dr. De Risi?” I would respond “yes he is my father” and the compliments would come without fail. “He is the most amazing man,” “ I love him,” “he is the best,” “he saved my life” and on and on. As a daughter you could imagine my pride.

    He is my hero, and even with his busy schedule he managed to raise my two brothers, sister and me to be kind, responsible, hard working adults through his example. My mother and he have worked very hard to balance his work life and our family life.

    Even as an adult, my father is the first person I turn to for strength. Knowing that I come from such greatness has helped me become a strong, successful woman and create my own path.

    I am a mother of twin boys and a girl. I hope and pray every day that my children have some of my father’s amazing qualities. I hope and I pray that my daughter can find a husband with the qualities of my father and I hope and pray that god forbid she ever needs a surgeon that she finds someone as wonderful, loving, intelligent, skilled and kind as my father. A doctor who cannot only heal her but encourage her along the way and give her hope and ease as my father has done for thousands.

    As I continued to read the letters of support coming in to help clear my father’s name I was humbled by how truly amazing a man he is, and how he has helped so many people heal physically and emotionally.

    This allegation against my father had made me question humanity. He is a man who has dedicated his life to healing others with grace, humor, respect, compassion and pure
    brilliance.

    Doctors across the country should be terrified by the facts of this case. How else should decent men and women protect themselves against bad actors or people who have their own agenda, when a respected nurse practitioner makes a sworn statement as an eye witness and yet her statement is completely discounted.

    Is this what we want for the future of men and women. A system that doesn’t work, that is too afraid to look at the facts because a movement has too much momentum. This movement is doomed if we don’t start thinking more clearly before making judgement. This is not the American way. We are better than this.

    In the end justice did prevail and my father was vindicated. It was an emotional roller coaster for my father, his patients, peers and our family. I want to thank Judge Alexander for seeking the truth and for dismissing this case today, but I am still fearful for those who get falsely accused and don’t have the reputation my father has or the fierce warrior patients who went to battle for him to clear his name. We must learn both sides to a story before we make our judgment. It is the only way to ensure this movement has the meaning and purpose it deserves.

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