Scandal may hurt rape cases in Oklahoma

BY SONYA COLBERG Modified: September 13, 2009 at 12:03 am •  Published: September 13, 2009
Copyright © 2009 The Oklahoman

McALESTER — A drug abuse scandal in the David Harold Earls child rape case could jeopardize numerous sexual abuse cases, Earls’ former attorney says.

A physician’s assistant on the state’s witness list is under investigation for drug abuse and allegedly converting more than 200 drug prescriptions to her own use.

Stacy Scroggins examined Earls’ victim in September 2008 and found sexual abuse signs, court records show. About the same time, Scroggins had access to an addictive narcotic called hydrocodone, a medical board complaint shows.

"If she was at any time under the influence when she did the exam, wrote the report, testified in court ... her credibility becomes suspect and her findings may come under attack at that point,” said attorney Tim Mills, who arranged a plea bargain with the district attorney’s staff. Earls received a sentence of one year in jail and 19 years suspended in the rape and forcible sodomy of the then 4-year-old girl.

The medical board complaint alleges Scroggins used habit-forming drugs that prevented her from practicing medicine with reasonable skill and safety to patients. She is temporarily suspended from practicing medicine while the state Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision investigates.

"The simple fact that she had her license suspended and the allegations of substance abuse wasn’t fatal to the state,” Mills said. "But it puts that portion of the evidence into serious question.”

The issue is also significant because Scroggins was considered the foremost sex abuse examiner in southeast Oklahoma, Mills said, and was called upon to examine, report and testify in numerous cases. No one has been able to estimate how many cases could be affected.

"Ohhh! That’s not good,” said Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, when told of the allegations against Scroggins and her license suspension. Ritze is a doctor, former state medical examiner and certified sexual abuse examiner.

He said he would never turn over a sex abuse exam to a physician’s assistant, but state law allows them to conduct such exams as long as a doctor supervises, even if by phone or from the next room.

Ritze co-authored a resolution seeking the ouster of Judge Thomas Bartheld for his acceptance of Earls’ one-year plea. He said District Attorney Jim Bob Miller kept calling and e-mailing, and getting his wife to e-mail, to protest the legislative actions against the judge.

Thinking "he must be trying to hide something,” Ritze and co-author Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, have considered adding removal of Miller from office to the resolution. Miller has already agreed not to seek re-election because of an unrelated matter.

"I know many judges and many DAs that would never accept anything that was on shaky grounds,” Ritze said.


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Physician’s assistants

By Oklahoma law, physician’s assistants may perform a wide range of supervised duties:

→Physical exams

→Diagnostic procedures

→Suturing

→Assisting doctors with patients showing more complex illnesses

→Performing procedures in response to life-threatening situations

ALSO ...
→Physician’s assistants must be supervised by a physician, who may be in contact by phone, fax or from somewhere in the office.

→Designed to address physician’s assistants who work in rural areas, supervising physicians are required to be on site at least half a day per week.

Sources: State of Oklahoma Physician Assistant Act;

Lyle Kelsey, Oklahoma State Board of Medical

Licensure and Supervision executive director

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