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Battery charge is filed against physician

Teri G. McDowell says she couldn't believe what the doctor at the St. Petersburg Free Clinic was doing as he examined her after she asked for a refill of her asthma medication.

During the Aug. 11 appointment, McDowell says Dr. Joseph A. Ezzo lifted her shirt, listened to her heart, then let go of his stethoscope and fondled her breasts. At one point, she said, Ezzo looked at her and asked, "How does that feel?"

That incident has led to a charge of misdemeanor battery being filed by the Pinellas-Pasco state attorney against the 72-year-old physician, who has an office at 2105 Tyrone Blvd. in St. Petersburg.

"My respiratory doctors never did anything like that. Most of the time, they didn't even lift my shirt," said McDowell, 32, who said she had to go to the Free Clinic for a period of time when she was having financial difficulties.

Chief Assistant State Attorney Bruce Bartlett said his office has received previous complaints against Ezzo "where he goes beyond the normal accepted medical practice." Bartlett said his office could not file charges in those cases because of a statute of limitations.

However, Bartlett said witnesses who had complained previously could be called to testify in the battery case. The other witnesses would be used to help the state prove that the physician's actions were not accidental, he said.

Ezzo did not return a message left for him.

Ezzo received a letter of guidance from the state Board of Medicine in 1990 after a woman complained that Ezzo touched her inappropriately while giving pelvic examinations without gloves while the woman was standing.

The Board of Medicine determined there was insufficient evidence of sexual abuse and issued the letter of guidance for Ezzo's failure to keep medical records justifying his course of treatment.