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Abuse trial of accused former Delaware pediatrician begins

GEORGETOWN, Del. — The trial of a former Delaware pediatrician charged with abusing scores of patients over more than a decade began Tuesday with attorneys agreeing to consolidate 470 counts in the original indictment against him into a new, 24-count indictment alleging rape, assault and sexual exploitation of a child.

Earl Bradley, 58, appeared in Sussex County Superior Court wearing a gray prison jumpsuit and white sneakers, squinting through his heavy glasses and often staring at the wall or table in front of him as the prosecution presented its case. About 50 spectators sat in the courtroom, including one woman who brought a box of tissues. A few others, including a small child, watched a closed-circuit television feed of the proceedings in a room set up for alleged victims’ families.

Bradley waived his right to a jury trial after a judge denied a motion to suppress what prosecutors say are graphic homemade videos of Bradley abusing children. His fate is being decided in a bench trial by Judge William Carpenter Jr.

Among the first witnesses to testify was Det. Scott Garland of the Delaware State Police high tech crimes unit. Garland recounted how he and other forensic analysts uncovered 13 hours, 35 minutes and 6 seconds of video of alleged sex crimes against 86 victims, dating from December 1998 to Dec. 13, 2009, just days before Bradley was arrested.

“The rapes were violent, they were brutal,” Garland testified. “… The violence we were seeing was significant, and beyond anything I had ever witnessed. Nothing had prepared me for it.”

Before Garland took the stand, prosecutor Alexis Gatti read a list of acts that the defense had agreed to, outlining details of the amended indictment. The stipulation disclosed that one of Bradley’s alleged victims, now just 4 years old, is the child of a woman who worked for Bradley. The indictment alleges that the child, identified only as Jane Doe 39, was the victim of four separate rapes in 2008 and 2009, and an incident of assault involving forced oral sex that was so severe she was unable to draw sufficient breath.

Garland testified that an attack on Jane Doe 39 was among several alleged sexual assaults that Bradley captured on video, then stored in password-protected files with an encryption software program that posed a challenge to forensic investigators. Garland said that upon learning that the manufacturer that created the software was no longer in business, investigators resorted to trolling “less than reputable” online sites that deal in pirated software to help crack the code.

The first witness to testify was Delaware State Police detective Thomas Elliott, who helped investigate the case and identify alleged victims. Elliott, who testified for about half an hour, said red flags that a patient might have been abused included Bradley taking them to the basement of his office or to an outbuilding for a Popsicle. The defense did not ask Elliott any questions.

Bradley’s arrest in December 2009 stunned the southern Delaware community of Lewes. He was arrested after a 2-year-old girl told her mother that the doctor hurt her when he took her to a basement room of his office after an exam.

The arrest followed previous police investigations and years of suspicions among parents and questions about his strange behavior from colleagues.

Reviews ordered after Bradley’s arrest found that state medical society officials, individual doctors and the Delaware Department of Justice violated state law by not reporting possible unprofessional behavior by Bradley to the medical licensing board.

The licensing board itself was criticized for not conducting its own investigation of Bradley more than 16 years ago after learning that Pennsylvania authorities were told he had fondled a young patient, and for failing to act on a 2005 complaint by Milford police after they were unable to prosecute Bradley on allegations that he improperly touched a 3-year-old patient.

Gov. Jack Markell signed nine bills last June prompted by the Bradley case that tightened regulation of doctors and clarified the obligations of the medical and law-enforcement communities to report and communicate about suspected physician misconduct and child abuse.