Phil Trexler

A pain management doctor, already accused in a civil lawsuit of sexual offenses against several patients, was named Thursday in a 23-count criminal indictment.

Dr. James Bressi, 59, of Hudson, is accused of rape and 11 counts each of gross sexual imposition and misdemeanor sexual imposition. His patients were his victims, prosecutors said.

Bressi is accused of sexually assaulting the female patients, some in their 70s, while working at Summit Pain Specialists in Stow.

The indictment contains the initials of 10 female victims. The offenses allegedly took place as recently as March, just prior to Bressi’s departure from the clinic. Some of the charges date back as far as September 2011.

Prosecutors allege some of the patients were forced to submit through force or threats of force. Other charges accuse Bressi of preying on patients who are physically or mentally impaired from age or illness.

“These women put their trust and faith in a medical professional to alleviate their pain,” said Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh. “Instead of finding relief from chronic pain, they were sexually assaulted. My office will work to ensure Dr. Bressi is held accountable for his actions.”

No arraignment date in Summit County Common Pleas Court has been announced. A defense attorney for Bressi could not be immediately identified. Bressi has denied any wrongdoing, according to court papers from the civil lawsuit and disciplinary records released by the state medical board.

One Summit County woman, who is part of the pending civil lawsuit, said she was relieved by the news of an indictment. She was in her early 70s when she said Bressi fondled her during an appointment.

“He made me feel so terrible, so dirty, like it was my fault or that I did something to make him do that,” the woman said Thursday. “I think it’s wonderful that he has finally been charged and he cannot do that to anyone else ever again.”

The Beacon Journal does not typically identify individuals listed by law enforcement as victims of sex crimes.

So far, eight former patients have filed suit against Bressi, a medical partner and the clinic. An attorney representing the women said earlier this month that at least 10 more are likely to join the lawsuit.

Earlier this month, the State Medical Board of Ohio suspended Bressi’s medical license. A report found “clear and convincing evidence that [Bressi’s] continued practice presents a danger of immediate and serious harm to the public.”

Stow police had been investigating allegations of sexual misconduct involving Bressi and several patients, including elderly women, who visited him at the Summit Pain Specialists office. The pain clinic’s website acknowledges Bressi’s departure from the practice March 15.

“The charges against Dr. Bressi are deeply disturbing,” clinic CEO Dean Rombach said in a statement Thursday. “We are sorry even one individual might have been subjected to this kind of behavior at our practice. We will not tolerate abuse of any type by any member of our staff and we want to thank those who had the courage to voice their concerns.

“We know physicians enjoy a special level of trust in our society. It is very disappointing when someone abuses that trust, especially when that person compromises the safety and well-being of a patient or an employee.”

Rombach said the clinic will continue to cooperate with law enforcement.

The eight former patients filed a medical malpractice lawsuit in May against Bressi and the clinic. The civil suit claims sexual abuse by Bressi that dates back to at least 2011.

Bressi’s attorneys in the civil litigation have said in court papers that the doctor “vehemently denies” the allegations brought against him.

His attorneys filed papers saying the women “have presented no evidence to suggest that they are likely to obtain a judgment against Dr. Bressi. Notably, absent is any fact supporting [the women’s] claims of ‘non-consensual touching.’?”

The state medical board said in its report that the decision to suspend Bressi’s license indefinitely was based on testimony by five women who alleged Bressi “perpetrated non-consensual ‘sexual activity’… during medical office appointments.”

State medical records show Bressi, an osteopath specialist, denied the sexual allegations while being interviewed by the board.

The doctor said, however, that in 2012 the clinic changed its policy and required a female to be present while he treated some female patients. The chaperon policy change was based on complaints by patients and staff that Bressi “engaged in inappropriate conduct” while treating his patients. The board said Bressi was fired from the clinic amid allegations that he forced a female patient to fondle him. In another allegation, Bressi is said to have sexually assaulted a female invalid during a visit to her home earlier this year. More allegations of sexual misconduct are contained in the medical board’s investigative file released to the Beacon Journal as a public record.

The arrest of Bressi brought an immediate response from the director of the Rape Crisis Center of Summit and Medina counties, who said the agency had received “numerous anonymous callers who were patients of Dr. Bressi.”

The center is encouraging victims to contact rape crisis counselors, regardless of whether they wish to pursue criminal charges. The Rape Crisis Center hotline is open 24 hours a day at 877-906-7273.

“We are appalled at the exploitation of these patients who put their trust in this doctor,” said center director Dana Zedak. “We wish to encourage all survivors of sexual violence to reach out to us for support and healing.”

Phil Trexler can be reached at 330-996-3717 or ptrexler@thebeaconjournal.com. He can be followed on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PhilTrexler.