Clearwater doc found not guilty of sexual battery charges
CLEARWATER - After deliberating for an hour and a half, a jury this afternoon acquitted a doctor of charges he sexually assaulted one patient, improperly touched the breast of a second and struck a third too hard on the knee with a reflex mallet. Kayode Sotonwa, 43, was found not guilty of sexual battery and two counts of misdemeanor battery. He smiled when he first heard the verdict as one of his lawyers patted him on the back. Then, moments later, Sotonwa wiped tears from his eyes. "It's just a relief," he said afterward. If convicted he faced a maximum of at least 15 years in prison. The acquittal represents something of a defeat for the Largo Police Department, which brought more than a half dozen charges against the Clearwater doctor.All told, the agency charged him with nine counts - alleging lewd and lascivious molestation, battery, and the sole rape charge -- for illegal actions it said Sotonwa made in his Largo office. But the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office chose to present cases involving only three of the alleged victims before a jury. "I believe the Largo Police Department did not do a credible job investigating this case," said George Tragos, one of Sotonwa's attorneys, outside the court house after the verdict. Among other things, Tragos said, the detective in charge sought out one of the victims; she herself did not come forward on her own. Sotonwa also expressed his disdain for the department, saying outside court the agency does a "disservice to the people there." The doctor, accompanied by his wife, said he would continue practicing medicine, but not in Largo. "I'm just going to be very very careful," Sotonwa said. Kendall Davidson, one of the prosecutors, said, "We're disappointed obviously. It was definitely a tough case." One of the alleged victims was in the courtroom and left in tears upon hearing the verdict. Tragos told the jury this morning that prosecutors failed to present any physical evidence implicating Sotonwa. And all the victims had credibility problems, he said. The one who claimed Sotonwa digitally penetrated her is bipolar, attempted suicide, and has anger management problems, Tragos said. The one who claimed he struck her too hard on the knee is also bipolar and has been charged with seven felonies in her past. The one who claimed Sotonwa improperly touched her breast also has problems, he said. In addition, Tragos told jurors, Largo Police Department detectives had a confidential informant with a hidden video camera undergo an examination in Sotonwa's office, but nothing happened. Tragos also said Largo detectives scoured Sotonwa's past and could find only three alleged victims "out of 300 (patients) over 20 years." But Davidson, the prosecutor, said a total of 16 had complained about him, though prosecutors only presented three alleged victims. Magda McSwain, another prosecutor in the case, accused Sotonwa of having a superiority complex, describing him to jurors as a physician who manipulated his female patients so he could exert power and control over them. The prosecutor asked the jury to consider a piece of correspondence in which Sotonwa reacted to the woman claiming he improperly touched her breast. Answering to what he apparently believed was a claim that he asked her for sex, Sotonwa wrote, "Why would I do that? Have you taken a good look at her? I am not desperate." McSwain also asked the jurors to consider the testimony of the women themselves. "They said he treated them with disdain because they were poor," McSwain said. All three were directed by county social services to Sotonwa as a primary care physician, so they could get referrals for conditions more suited for a specialist. She said neither of the sexual-related incidents had an underlying medical purpose. And, McSwain said, Sotonwa struck the woman too hard with the mallet because he was upset she was insisting on an exam.
Reporter Stephen Thompson can be reached at (727) 451-2336.