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Largo doctor faces more charges

Largo police have filed five more charges against Dr. Kayode E. Sotonwa, 42. The charges include two counts of lewd and lascivious molestation and three counts of battery. Nine patients said he touched them inappropriately.

JIM DAMASKE | Times

Largo police have filed five more charges against Dr. Kayode E. Sotonwa, 42. The charges include two counts of lewd and lascivious molestation and three counts of battery. Nine patients said he touched them inappropriately.

LARGO — A woman went to Dr. Kayode E. Sotonwa's office in Largo last month for a blood pressure test and a refill on her medication.

The doctor told her she was having a heart attack and needed to go into another room to undress and put on a robe, according to police.

Sotonwa, 42, of Clearwater, brought her back into the room, attached her to an EKG machine and fondled her breasts for 15 minutes. Then he told her she was not having a heart attack, police said.

That victim was among nine women — adults and teenagers — who complained that Sotonwa touched them inappropriately.

On Thursday, police added five more counts to the growing list of charges Sotonwa faces. He was arrested last week on one charge of sexual battery and three charges of battery. Thursday's charges include two counts of lewd and lascivious molestation and three counts of battery.

He was released from the Pinellas jail on $40,750 bail Thursday night.

Police say there may be additional complaints and are asking anyone with information to contact them.

The stories of alleged abuse the women told police are similar.

Two teenage girls under 16 came in to get a shot in February and were told by Sotonwa to take off their shirts and bras, police said. He proceeded to massage their breasts, according to police.

Another woman came in with headaches, police said, and the doctor proceeded to fondle her breasts and put his hands down her pants.

Sotonwa told another woman she had an urinary tract infection and instructed her to "take it easy on the sex." The woman told him she was abstinent. He then he went on to touch her sexual organs with an ungloved hand, according to police.

Sotonwa declined a request for an interview Thursday.

Attorney Peter Sartes said the doctor "vehemently denies the allegations" and is a "reputable member of this community." Sartes' legal partner, George E. Tragos, said the new complaints were the result of herd mentality. "People who received legitimate medical treatment are interpreting it the wrong way," Tragos said.

Both lawyers said Sotonwa examined patients of the opposite gender only in the presence of another witness and the allegations made by the nine woman were untrue.

Police say doctor has history of complaints

Largo police Lt. Mike Loux said the first complaint came to Largo police in October when a woman complained that Sotonwa rubbed a business card along her inner thigh and down her leg. According to a police affidavit, Sotonwa told the woman to take off her clothes so he could "place the business card around her anus area."

The complaint was investigated by a Largo patrol officer as a battery, but the officer characterized it as a "he said-she said" dispute and no arrest was made, Loux said.

In February, another woman came forward with a sexual battery complaint. This time a detective took the case and found the women in both complaints had found Sotonwa through the Pinellas County Health and Human Services Department, which offers medical insurance for low-income people who don't qualify for other government insurance.

When the detective spoke to Health and Human Services, he found out that there had been a number of other complaints lodged against Sotonwa, but they were not acted on.

Lynn Kiehne, health care administrator for the Health and Human Services Department, explained that Wellcare, the company that administers the managed care plan, told the county it would act only if the patients contacted Wellcare directly.

Wellcare spokeswoman Amy Knapp said the company investigates all complaints seriously, but she could not say whether any had been lodged against Sotonwa. Wellcare is not referring patients to Sotonwa until the company finishes its own investigation, Knapp said.

Doctor has been practicing for 19 years

Sotonwa was born in Nigeria but is a U.S. citizen and is married with children. He has practiced internal medicine for the last 19 years. He graduated from the University of Lagos College of Medicine in Nigeria and did his internship at a hospital in Wilkes-Barre, Penn.

He has staff privileges at Mease Countryside Hospital, Mease Dunedin Hospital and Morton Plant Hospital and formerly had a non-paid courtesy faculty appointment at the University of South Florida College of Medicine, according to the Florida Department of Health.

One of his patients, Susan Morgan, 43, of Largo, said she was shocked to hear the allegations. "It just stunned me when I saw that because he was very, very professional. He never did anything inappropriate," she said. "I just don't believe it."

His lawyers said that someone spray-painted the words "child molester" on the side of his office at 2700 East Bay Drive, Suite 101, in Largo.

Largo victim advocate Coleen Chaney said victims of abuse by doctors are often too intimidated to come forward.

"Most of us are very tentative about being in disagreement with an authority figure," Chaney said. "In a doctor setting, you don't feel empowered to be contrary to what the doctor is doing."

Largo police ask anyone with information to call Detective Joe Coyle at (727) 587-6728.

Staff researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Jonathan Abel can be reached at jabel@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4157.

Largo doctor faces more charges 04/24/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 29, 2008 3:23pm]
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