A judge sentenced Newport Beach psychiatrist James Harrington White to six years and eight months in prison Wednesday for sexually molesting a 29-year-old patient while the man was unconscious.
White, 48, pleaded guilty last spring to two counts of sexual molestation stemming from one incident, which he had preserved on videotape. But the day before he was scheduled to be sentenced in August, White fled the state, eluding police for two months until he was arrested in Texas.
On Wednesday, Superior Court Judge Myron S. Brown chastised White for thumbing his nose at the court with his disappearance.
“I don’t think he pleaded guilty to relieve the victim of any pain and anguish,” Judge Brown said. “He did it so he could be free on bail and plan and plot his departure from our system.”
White, who prosecutors say has a history of abusing young men in his control, was arrested at a border checkpoint near Laredo in October. He was accompanied by a 16-year-old male from Northern California; the youth had disappeared at the same time as White.
Judge Brown sentenced White to six years on the molestation charge and added eight months for the failure to appear at the first sentencing.
White had been arrested at his Newport Beach clinic last March after the victim, who had been staying in the psychiatrist’s home, discovered a 24-minute videotape that showed White sexually abusing him while he was asleep. Prosecutors contend that White had drugged the man into unconsciousness. The video also showed White taking still photos of the victim and other photographs of the two of them during sex.
Besides White’s highly successful practice--he has owned homes in Corona del Mar, Palm Desert and Mammoth Lakes--he was the consulting psychiatrist for Camp O’Neal, the Sierra Nevada juvenile-detention home where seven people drowned a year ago in Convict Lake.
After his arrest, the court received a declaration from an adopted son of White’s that he had been sexually abused by the doctor for about 16 years. Deputy Dist. Atty. Dennis Bauer told Judge Brown Wednesday that there is evidence that White may have molested at least one other male patient.
Prosecutor Bauer said that White used his position of control to make his victims “his pet, his toy, his robot.” Bauer added that the 24-minute videotape itself indicates prior experience by White in abusing males.
But despite the judge’s sharp comments about White’s departure from Orange County, the sentence he handed down wasn’t nearly as severe as the 10 2/3 years that Bauer had sought.
The judge agreed with defense attorney Paul S. Meyer that the videotape showed “one continuous flow of sexual conduct” rather than two separate sexual attacks, which would have been required for White to receive the maximum sentence.
Dressed in an Orange County Jail jumpsuit, White sat impassively with his head down as the victim addressed the court, stating that the incident with the psychiatrist “has pretty much torn my life apart. . . . I’ve lost trust. . . . I’m not able to carry on a normal type of life at this point. I’m uncomfortable even being in a room alone with another male.”
Also in court was the adopted son who claimed that White had molested him. He said later that he was relieved that White would be put away at least for a while.
Brown, as part of his standard procedure, had ordered a 90-day diagnostic study by the Department of Corrections to guide him in sentencing White. The state recommended in its report that White be a candidate for probation. But Judge Brown rejected defense attorney Meyer’s request to place White on probation, explaining that White had already proven he would not cooperate with the system.
White has been suspended from practicing medicine and the permanent removal of his license by the state is now considered a formality.