Doctor Gets Probation After Sexually Assaulting Patient Three Times
Former Dr. Shafeeq Sheikh, 46, was sentenced to ten years’ probation after sexually assaulting a patient while she was tethered in the hospital and receiving treatment for asthma. The sentence was shocking to prosecutors, the police department, and even to Sheikh’s defense attorneys. Sheikh admitted to having sexual contact with the woman at Ben Taub hospital in 2013, although he claimed it was consensual, and a jury subsequently found the doctor guilty of rape after fourteen hours of deliberation.
Prosecutors said the victim, now 32, was weak, sore, and medicated when the attacks occurred. The woman testified that a doctor came to her bedside in the dark and began touching her breasts during a chest exam. She said she tried to summon a nurse with the call button, but witnesses testified it was later found to be unplugged. He returned twice more and sexually assaulted her. Cameras inside the hospital showed Sheikh near the victim’s room, using his hospital identification card to gain access.
“When you’re a doctor, I’d expect you’d get prison time,” said attorney Casey Kiernan, who regularly defends sexual assault cases. “We hold doctors to a higher standard.”
“After being presented all the evidence, the jury convicted this man of rape and decided that he should be sentenced to 10 years of probation; the jury voted on behalf of the community to determine his sentence, and although prosecutors sought 20 years in prison,” Dane Schiller, a spokesman for District Attorney Kim Ogg. “We respect this process.”
Prosecutors had pushed for substantial prison time. Sheikh lost his medical license and must now register as a sex offender.
“This is beyond troubling,” Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said of the lenient sentence for sexually assaulting a patient. “A hideous crime is committed in a hospital room which should be a sanctuary for patients. So many new norms that run contrary to what we’ve always stood for, I pray no accountability for harming people isn’t one of them.”
Sheikh’s defense lawyer, Stanley Schneider, responded, “It’s easy to criticize when you are not there to listen. I’m surprised the police chief does not have more respect for the jury system and the judicial system in Texas. That’s the problem with Monday morning quarterbacks.” He had argued his client has a wife and children and no prior felonies and asked the jury to have mercy on him.
“The 12 members of the jury who sat there and heard evidence for two solid weeks were in the best position to make that call…And when you’re not there and you haven’t heard the evidence, people should not jump to conclusions about facts they didn’t hear,” said defense attorney, Lisa Andrews, adding, “The facts are not black and white. The truth is usually a version of gray.”
However, sex offenders often claim that sex was consensual to avoid harsh sentencing and stigma. “Oftentimes, perpetrators will attempt to minimize the severity of their actions by claiming it wasn’t sexual assault but was consensual sex,” said Sonia Corrales, chief program officer at the Houston Area Women’s Center. “Sexual violence is a willful choice a perpetrator makes to harm another human being and should be addressed by the criminal justice system with the same severity as any other violent crime.”