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Doctor charged in fondling case

NEW PORT RICHEY — For years women have complained to the law and to the courts that Dr. Gunwant Dhaliwal inappropriately touched them while they were in his medical offices.

In recent months he has been sued four times in Pasco and Hernando counties. He has been investigated by three different law enforcement agencies.

But now, for the first time, Dhaliwal faces criminal charges that he fondled women in his clinics.

The Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office filed two counts of misdemeanor battery May 27 against the 46-year-old doctor, an internist who has practices in Holiday, New Port Richey and Spring Hill.

"I believe this is just a step in the right direction for my clients to receive justice for what they've been through," said Port St. Lucie attorney Michael Feiner.

Last year Feiner filed suit in Pasco circuit court against the doctor on behalf of the two women whose complaints resulted in the criminal charges.

Dhaliwal declined to comment Monday. He denied the allegations to the Times in October, after the women filed their lawsuits, and accused the women of trying to extort money from him.

Dhaliwal is currently licensed to practice medicine in Florida, according to the Department of Health's online records. State records show he has no arrest record in Florida.

But on Monday he did resign as an honorary Pasco sheriff's deputy, according to sheriff's spokesman Doug Tobin. Pasco Sheriff Bob White gives honorary badges to people for their contributions to the community, but they have no arrest powers.

"We are in the process of collecting his badge," Tobin said.

The Pasco County Sheriff's Office has received nine complaints about the doctor in the past eight years, according to Tobin. Some were filed after the statute of limitations expired. But three were sent to prosecutors to decide what to do with them.

Two of those resulted in the criminal case now pending against Dhaliwal. The New Port Richey Police Department and the Hernando County Sheriff's Office were also investigating Dhaliwal, according to Tobin.

The first misdemeanor charge stems from a Feb. 12, 2007, incident, according to a detective's affidavit.

Danielle Turner told deputies that she was a new employee at the doctor's New Port Richey clinic when Dhaliwal fondled her while demonstrating a cosmetic procedure.

The other incident took place May 30, 2007, according to the affidavit. Marissa Satinoff told deputies the doctor fondled her during a medical exam.

Misdemeanor battery basically means illegal touching. Each count is punishable by up to a year in jail.

The doctor was also sued in Hernando County on April 25 by former patient Tammy King. Her lawsuit alleged that Dhaliwal fondled her at his clinic on Feb. 6, 2007.

Jamal Thalji can be reached at thalji@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6236.

Doctor charged in fondling case 06/02/08 [Last modified: Thursday, June 5, 2008 6:47pm]
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