Thursday, December 14, 2017
Public safety

Pinellas doctor gets 15 years for sexually abusing teenage boy

LARGO — A Pinellas County physician was sentenced to 15 years in prison Friday after he pleaded guilty to charges that he sexually abused a teenager in his care.

Dr. Brian Webster Cook, 51, befriended the youth and his mother after they came into his clinic, then molested the teen over several years. Facing a possible life sentence, Cook struck a plea agreement that included 10 years of probation as a sex offender.

Cook met the youth in 2009 at one of two StatMed walk-in clinics he owned at the time. Cook also was an emergency room doctor at Palms of Pasadena Hospital and had previously worked at Morton Plant Hospital.

Investigators 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.

Cook did not offer any explanation during his sentencing hearing before Pinellas Circuit Judge Timothy Peters, but his attorney said he had written letters of remorse to the youth and his mother.

The mother, who is not being named because of the nature of the charges, read a blistering statement about how Cook manipulated her and her son for his "sick, perverted sexual pleasure.''

She had been a victim of sexual abuse herself, had post traumatic stress symptoms and was suicidal at times, she said. Cook prescribed medication and even took her to a psychiatric ward for admission.

"You used your stature as physician, … your money, your education and your intelligence,'' she said. "You pretended to want to help, to mentor my son, to want to be my friend.''

The woman said she would have preferred that he get a life sentence, but "I take comfort in knowing that life as you knew it is over. Your precious medical license is gone. Your reputation is ruined. Your family and children know what a monster you are.''

The woman also praised her son for the "courage and strength of character'' he showed by eventually going to authorities.

Cook stood mute during her statement, staring at the floor. At times, he seemed to nod in assent.

He had originally denied the allegations, but investigators acquired a recording of him and the teen discussing sexual relations. Confronted with that recording, Cook confessed.

Times staffer Cheri Diez contributed to this report.

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