Tuesday, November 13, 2018
  • The Heater
  • Marc Topkin

Rays sever ties with team physician Michael Reilly after video alleging inappropriate conduct

ST. PETERSBURG — Prominent St. Petersburg doctor Michael Reilly was fired as the Tampa Bay Rays team physician and resigned a similar post at St. Petersburg Catholic High after a video was posted on YouTube including accusations of inappropriate behavior and sexual abuse eight to 10 years ago.

The Rays took action after viewing the video posted by a St. Petersburg woman that alleged Reilly touched her inappropriately and tried to kiss her while she was a teenager working in his St. Petersburg office.

St. Petersburg police are also aware of and looking into the accusations. Spokeswoman Sandra Bentil said investigators are still in a fact-finding stage and determining whether charges should be filed.

Reilly denied the allegations of sexual abuse but admitted to what he called a consensual relationship when the woman was an adult, in a statement issued by his lawyer. Reilly also said he was "deeply troubled" by the allegations, considered the tarnishing of his reputation "disturbing'' and was consulting with counsel.

The video, which is 10-plus minutes long and is titled "The Importance Of Sharing My Story Of Sexual Abuse," was posted under the name Brianna Rah, which is not the woman's real name. The Tampa Bay Times does not normally name women who report sexual abuse.

"I know he's done this to other people," the woman, now 26, said in the video. "I've debated making a video for years. I finally thought if I have to put my face out there, if it's going to save another person from being sexually abused from this person, then so be it."

Reilly, 67, has been affiliated with the Rays for their 20 seasons, and also served as a team doctor for the Tampa Bay Lightning from 1992-2002.
But his presence extends well beyond the sports teams. He has had a longtime robust private practice near downtown St. Petersburg, served as chief of staff at St. Anthony's Hospital from 2000-2001, and has worked with numerous charitable organizations, including serving on the board of the Alpha House. Reilly and his wife, Jennifer, who he married in 1999, have six sons. His brother, Paul, is chairman and CEO of Raymond James Financial.

The woman, who posted the video Jan. 17, did not return messages left  by the Tampa Bay Times at several numbers.

The Rays first made the issue public with a Tuesday morning announcement that they had terminated Reilly's contract and he was "no longer affiliated with the organization."

John Higgins, the team vice president and general counsel, later released a statement:

"We have very recently become aware of a video accusing Dr. Reilly of sexually abusing a former employee of his medical practice. We have ended our contractual relationship with him, and we have also alerted the St. Petersburg Police Department and Major League Baseball of this situation."

In the video, the woman said she was 16 when she started work and shortly thereafter Reilly would "put his hand on my hand" and would approach her from behind and "put his hand on my shoulder and lightly rub my back," while asking her how school and sports were going and if she was attending Mass, acting as "a father figure."

She said she quit "shortly after I noticed he was touching me in exam rooms." She said Reilly called her about eight months later and invited her to come back, and she agreed to, thinking "maybe I was being dramatic."

"The same thing started happening, and this time it did progress," she said.

The woman said she was given computer tasks that required her to stay a couple hours after the office closed and that Reilly would stay to play computer games and sit near her.

"He wouldn't really say anything, he would just touch me, and without getting specific, it just got worse," she said.

She said she wrestled with what to do, would cry in her car afterward but eventually became "numb" to and used to being touched inappropriately.

"It just progressively got worse and worse," she said. "There were times in the office when he would ask for me during hours to come into his office and he would shut the door and try and kiss me."

The woman said she had anxiety attacks and other issues as a result of his actions.

Reilly, in the statement forwarded by attorney Cathleen Bell Bremmer, said:
"I recently watched the YouTube video. While I am deeply troubled by the allegations made, I am sympathetic to the pain she has expressed.

"I deny her allegations of sexual abuse. We did, however, have a consensual relationship when she was an adult, which I regret.

"I've dedicated my life to medicine and making our community a better place to live, so having my reputation tarnished in this manner is disturbing.

"The video has already had serious repercussions for me and my family. As a result, I am consulting with legal counsel, and I am not in a position to say anything further at this time.

"In the meantime I ask that you allow my family and me our privacy as the process plays out.''

Reilly's St. Petersburg office was open on Tuesday, and he remained in good standing with the state Department of Health and the Florida Board of Medicine, which lists his license as "clear/active."

Reilly remains affiliated with St. Anthony's with medical privileges but is not on the staff. BayCare spokeswoman Beth Hardy said they are "concerned about the nature of the allegations" and "empathetic" toward victims of sexual abuse, and they "will determine next steps as more information becomes available."

After being made aware of the video last week, the Rays first suspended Reilly. After further consideration, they informed their full staff of the situation Tuesday and announced publicly that he had been terminated. There were no complaints by players or staff about Reilly so the decision apparently was made based on the video. Reilly also serves as personal physician to a number of Rays executives and staff.

St. Petersburg Catholic officials also took action after being made aware of the video. Communications director Teresa L. Peterson said they contacted Reilly and he agreed to resign as volunteer team physician for the football team and as a member of the Diocesan Review Board.

The accusations surface at a time when sports doctors are in the news given the recent trial of Dr. Larry Nassar on charges of abusing members of the U.S. gymnastics team and others.

Times staff writers Sara DiNatale, Justine Griffin, John Martin, Rodney Page and Thomas C. Tobin contributed to this report. Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_Rays.

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