A judge issued a bench warrant Wednesday for the arrest of Newport Beach psychiatrist James Harrington White, who failed to appear for his sentencing on two sexual molestation counts involving a 29-year-old male patient.
His attorney, Paul S. Meyer, said he had talked to the doctor on Tuesday about the sentencing and that White had ended the conversation with a “flat tone” thank you.
White, 47, who was highly successful and had homes in Newport Beach, Palm Desert and Mammoth Lakes, was accused of drugging the patient, who had moved into his home, and performing a sex act on him, with everything recorded on videotape.
The 20-minute videotape was confiscated by police after White was arrested on March 15 at his third-floor clinic in the 1400 block of Avocado Avenue in Newport Beach. He pleaded guilty in May to two felony counts involving the one victim.
White was a consulting psychiatrist and a member of the faculty board of directors of Camp O’Neal, a Sierra Nevada home for troubled youths.
Meyer refused to say whether he was surprised at White’s failure to show up before Superior Court Judge Myron S. Brown on Wednesday for sentencing, which had already been postponed once.
“The sentencing is still pending, and I can’t comment,” Meyer said. “I think Dr. White is going to be sentenced on the basis of the counts against him, not the fact he could be a day or two late. I think the court would take it into consideration if someone was extremely despondent over his circumstances.”
But prosecutors indicated to Judge Brown on Wednesday that White had told his secretary and a friend that he did not intend to appear at the sentencing. Reports available to the court showed that White has been particularly despondent over the potential loss of his license and his livelihood. He has been suspended from practice pending a final decision by state medical authorities.
The authorities’ efforts to locate White were unsuccessful late Wednesday.
Meyer said late Wednesday he had not heard from his client all day.
“The tragedy is that I thought we were making real progress on reaching a reasonable sentence in this case,” Meyer said.
Brown was not expected to formally sentence White on Wednesday. Rather, he was expected to send White to the state prison at Chino for a 90-day diagnostic study, which helps guide judges in deciding whether to sentence a defendant to state prison or place him on probation.
White, who had pleaded guilty just two months after his arrest in March, faced a possible eight-year sentence. But Meyer was seeking probation for him and expected no worse than a two-year sentence.
The victim and several members of his family were in Brown’s court Wednesday ready for the sentencing.
The victim told police that White had been treating him for stress-related to a back injury and that the two became friends. He eventually moved into White’s home in Corona del Mar at the doctor’s invitation, he said.
The arrest was based on the victim’s March 5 complaint that White had plied him with subscription drugs, then, while he was unconscious, sexually molested him. The victim said he was unaware of the sexual incident until he found, locked in a toolbox at White’s home, numerous photographs and a videotape of himself in various stages of undress being sexually abused by the psychiatrist. He moved out of White’s home after the discovery.
At the time of White’s arrest, several juveniles were found at his home, and police believe that some of them may have been living there with him too.
Defense attorney Meyer said White had pleaded guilty in part to spare the victim from having to go through the ordeal of a trial.
But Deputy Dist. Atty. Dennis Bauer said at the time of the guilty plea that White probably wanted “to avoid the videotape of him engaging in sexual acts with the victim played in an open courtroom.”
White had been held on $500,000 bail after his arrest, but it was later reduced to $250,000.
Meyer said Brown had secured the bail through his own property, worth $200,000. That property will be in jeopardy unless White appears quickly and persuades the court that the bail forfeiture should be retrievable.