After three days of deliberation, a jury convicted Thomas Francis Dickershaid, a Westchester chiropractor, of sexually assaulting four of his former patients. The verdict came Thurs- day, September 27th, in Superior Court at the Airport Courthouse in Los Angeles.
Prosecutors accused the doctor of raping and sexually assaulting several of his female clients and one woman who came to his Westchester office seeking employment between 2004 and 2006.
Dickershaid, 66, was found guilty on 11 felony counts of rape and sexual battery. He faces the possibility of more than 20 years in state prison, according to a spokeswoman for Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley.
Dickershaid, who had been free on $200,000 bail during the trial, was taken into custody immediately following the verdict.
Dickershaid was arrested in October last year after two women contacted police and alleged that he had sexually assaulted them in his Westchester office. The ages of the women ranged from late 20s to 60s. The defendant also had offices in San Diego, Inglewood and the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles, but these locations have since been closed.
The charges against Dickershaid include sexual battery by restraint, sexual battery by fraud, forcible rape and sexual penetration with a foreign object.
Lisa Houle, the deputy district attorney who prosecuted the case, said that she believed there were several factors that led to the jury finding the doctor guilty.
“The number of victims who came forward, the details that they were all able to elaborate on, from what he would do and what he would say to them, and the sincerity of the victims really made a difference,” she said.
In many ways, the fact that Dickershaid was their doctor was more egregious, said Houle.
“He was in a position of trust, these victims put their faith and trust in him, and he took complete advantage of that relationship and assaulted them under the guise of giving chiropractic care,” she said.
David Diamond, the defendant’s attorney, said in an interview that his client would be seeking to overturn the jury’s verdict.
“My client will be appealing the ruling,” Diamond told The Argonaut several days after the verdict. “We will be asking the judge to (vacate) the jury’s decision.”
The defense attorney cited insufficient evidence as the basis for the pending appeal.
Although he has been convicted of sexual crimes, it is unclear whether or not Dickershaid will lose his chiropractic license.
“Sexual misconduct is given a high priority in our office,” said a manager in the enforcement division of the California Board of Chiropractic Examiners, the state agency that licenses and regulates chiropractors.
“Now that the case has concluded, we will put this on a fast track to have administrative charges filed,” the official added.
The district attorney’s office will not play an active role in any decision whether Dickershaid loses his license to practice.
“That’s something that we will not get involved in,” said Houle. “We will report the outcome of the case to the state licensing board, but it will be their decision whether or not to revoke [Dickershiad’s] license.”
Dickershaid will seek to retain his ability to practice as well as overturn the verdict, according to his attorney.
“My client will continue to fight not only to repair his good name but4 also to keep his license,” Diamond confirmed.
Houle said that her office would be seeking a long prison sentence for Dickershaid.
“On the conservative side, it’s going to be at least in the lower 20s,” she said. “[The defendant] is facing many, many years in state prison.”
While he commended the jury for their three days of deliberation, Diamond believes that his client can win an appeal.
“I never recommend that a client appeal unless there is a good chance to win,” Diamond said. “In our case, I think that there are good faith appellate issues.”
The defendant is scheduled to be sentenced Monday, October 29th, at the Airport Courthouse.