Mysterious departure of Georgia doctor explained in Wyoming courtroom

Dr. Paul Harnetty previously practiced in the Warner Robins area

Mum was the word when obstetrician Paul Harnetty lost his privileges at Warner Robins-area hospitals in 2010 and was “disassociated” from his medical group. Patients were left in the dark — some women didn’t find out he couldn’t deliver their babies until they showed up at hospitals in labor.

The Georgia Composite Medical Board didn’t shed light on what happened. By its public accounting, Harnetty had an unblemished record. So when he departed for Wyoming, in 2012 he apparently quickly got a license to practice.

A criminal court case in that state has finally offered explanations for Harnetty’s departure from Georgia.

Harnetty is about to stand trial for sexual assault of Wyoming patients. In a pre-trial ruling, a judge said jurors will not be allowed to hear information about a range of misconduct because it would prejudice a jury. The evidence included details of a 22-month Georgia medical board investigation of Harnetty, allegations that he sexually harassed nurses at a Georgia hospital, and information that he had to do medical residencies in multiple places due to improprieties relating to females, the Casper Star-Tribune is reporting.

The judge also barred the jury from hearing allegations that he sexually assaulted a child decades ago, a case for which he was never charged.

The judge allowed some uncharged evidence to be presented at trial, including allegations that he sexually propositioned a patient and had sex with a patient and her husband, the newspaper report says.

Harnetty’s trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 22. He is charged with eight counts of second-degree sexual assault and two counts of third-degree sexual assault.

Questions still remain about Harnetty’s time in Georgia. What was the result of the board’s 22-month investigation of him? Did the board issue a private order? Or did it drop the case when he moved to another state? Did any patients here complain about sexual misconduct?

The Georgia board website now shows that Harnetty’s license has lapsed but that he had no public disciplinary orders. The board doesn’t comment on the cases of individual doctors.

In its national investigation, the AJC found that many of the nation’s medical boards shield doctors accused of sexual abuse.

Of note, the Wyoming board also had nothing bad to say about him in October 2016, when he gave up his license in exchange for that board dropping its investigation. Its website says only this: “Dr. Harnetty requested the Board accept his request of a voluntary relinquishment in lieu of continuing with an investigation against him for wrongful practice. On October 7, 2016, the Board accepted the voluntary relinquishment.”

As early as 2015, Wyoming patients had gone to police to report that he had sexually violated them. He was arrested in January 2017.

Of note, the public may never have learned about the Georgia board investigation were it not for efforts by news organizations in Wyoming. Harnetty’s defense attorneys tried to close the pre-trial hearing in which the Georgia allegations against the doctor were revealed. But an attorney for the company that owns the Casper Star-Tribune argued that the public and media should not be excluded, and the judge’s ruling kept the hearing open. More details about the allegations are here: http://k2radio.com/judge-admits-evidence-about-former-casper-doctors-sexual-behavior/

Read the AJC’s project here: doctors.ajc.com

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