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Men sue doctor over fondling allegations

(ran SS edition of Metro & State)

The former VA Medical Center at Bay Pines cardiologist had earlier pleaded no contest to three misdemeanor charges.

Three male patients are suing a former cardiologist at the VA Medical Center at Bay Pines who pleaded no contest last year to fondling them during routine medical exams.

A judge decided that Dr. Nicolas T. Valenti of Clearwater cannot practice medicine while on probation, which ends in December. The doctor was fired from the hospital last spring after the allegations surfaced.

"It's so outrageous," said attorney Joseph Saunders, who represents one of the victims. "It's horrible to think about a physician doing that."

Two of the victims filed suits under the name "John Doe" to protect their identities. But Saunders said his client, William S. Moore, 48, used his own name because he wants people to know what he went through and prevent Valenti from abusing his patients again.

The three men, who each filed separate lawsuits in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court in the last couple of weeks, have said they were angry prosecutors did not charge Valenti with a felony and that he was able to reach a settlement that included no jail time, their attorneys said.

"That was a disappointment. It was a letdown for everyone involved," said Wade Thompson, who represents the other two victims. "Just because they are men, not women, doesn't make it any less serious."

Saunders said he has given the VA notice that his client also may sue the agency. A VA spokesman has said Valenti started working for the agency four months before he was fired and came highly recommended.

Valenti's attorney, Louis Kwall, said in December that the doctor was not admitting guilt. He said Valenti simply wanted to get on with his life.

Kwall and Valenti could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The allegations against Valenti came to light after a 48-year-old Navy veteran complained about him.

The man said he'd gone to the outpatient clinic at Bay Pines because of arthritic shoulder pain. But instead of examining the patient's shoulder, Valenti pulled down his undershorts and began masturbating him, the man said.

Unsure anyone would believe him, the man waited a week before reporting the incident. He formally complained after the doctor was assigned to examine him during his next visit to the clinic.

In December, Pinellas County Judge Thomas Freeman placed Valenti on one-year probation after his plea to three misdemeanor battery charges. He also was ordered to attend sex-offender counseling and pay $220 in court costs.