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No bail for Pinellas ER doctor accused of sexual battery on a minor

LARGO — The "secret, dark life" of a doctor came out in court on Tuesday, as detectives and prosecutors accused Brian Webster Cook of a history of grooming teenage boys for sex.

But Cook's family also came to court, and asked a judge to set bail, so he could be released while his elderly parents are still able to be around him.

Pinellas County Judge Robert Dittmer denied Cook's request for bail, so at least for now, he will be held in the Pinellas County Jail awaiting trial.

Dittmer made his decision after listening to a secretly made recording of Cook and a teenage boy discussing sexual relations; and hearing Pinellas County sheriff's deputies outline their investigation. They said Cook, 50, had sexual relations with the boy multiple times starting when the youth was 15.

Dittmer also heard from the boy's mother, who said Cook "took a troubled kid and made him even worse." She said, "I don't want (Cook) out of jail. I am afraid … he's going to have contact with my son and manipulate him."

During the hearing, Cook, dressed in jail scrubs, took the relatively unusual step of speaking in his own bond reduction hearing, saying he had no intention of skipping town with the charges pending.

"I just wouldn't do that to my family," Cook said. His parents, brother and girlfriend live locally.

Cook faces charges of sexual battery on a minor. Authorities say the sex acts occurred with the teen son of a patient Cook met at one of the two Statmed walk-in clinics he owned at the time. Cook also was an emergency room doctor at Palms of Pasadena Hospital, and previously was at Morton Plant Hospital. He has declined to relinquish his medical license, but it is under review.

Sheriff's Detective Jennifer Zinge said Cook first had sexual contact with the teenager after taking him on a camping trip near the Appalachian Trail — and assuring the 15-year-old that oral sex was a normal thing for people to do. Eventually, the boy came to live with Cook.

Zinge said the doctor's "secret, dark life" included grooming other boys for sex over the past 15 years. She said one victim is now 30.

Assistant State Attorney Christie Ellis said that victim and one other were abused outside Florida, and no charges are pending against Cook for those allegations.

As detectives investigated, Cook agreed to meet with Zinge and initially said he hadn't done anything wrong.

But Zinge testified on Tuesday that when she told Cook about the recorded phone call, "he acknowledged that everything that the victim said was true." She said she interviewed Cook for more than five hours.

In arguing that Cook should not be let out of jail. Ellis said he had assets of roughly $500,000, was facing a possible life sentence, and that "this is a desperate man."

No bail for Pinellas ER doctor accused of sexual battery on a minor 12/20/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 20, 2011 9:13pm]
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