An administrative law judge Friday suspended the license of a Los Angeles physician after the California attorney general's office accused him of sexually abusing three patients, including raping one woman while she was under anesthesia and fondling another who had just had an abortion.
The ruling came shortly after Dr. Lawson A. Akpulonu--who has worked at three Los Angeles-area clinics with a mostly female clientele--entered a not guilty plea to criminal charges involving the alleged incidents Friday in Culver City Municipal Court.
Akpulonu faces two felony counts of assault with intent to commit mayhem, rape, sodomy or oral copulation, according to the court clerk's office. He also was arraigned on two charges of sexual battery.
Akpulonu, 49, was arrested Thursday at one of the clinics, the Midland Medical Center on Venice Boulevard in Culver City. He was being held in lieu of $190,000 bail.
The seriousness of the allegations prompted state authorities to seek an interim suspension order against the physician until a formal accusation can be filed seeking permanent revocation of Akpulonu's license, said Deputy Atty. Gen. E. A. Jones III.
Jones has been handling the matter on behalf of the Medical Board of California, which polices the medical profession. The board has been investigating Akpulonu for nearly four years in connection with several other alleged offenses, including Medi-Cal fraud.
Culver City police began investigating the sexual misconduct allegations last month after receiving reports of abuse, according to a news release. Police say the investigation into alleged sexual misconduct is continuing.
In papers filed before the administrative law judge, the attorney general's office alleged that "the pattern of abusive conduct by respondent (Akpulonu) here certainly foretells future misconduct on his part and warrants immediate suspension of his license."
Administrative Law Judge Jaime Rene Ramon ruled that Akpulonu may represent a danger to public health and safety after reviewing documents submitted by the attorney general, including affidavits from the three women who say they complained about Akpulonu.
Neither the doctor nor an attorney representing him appeared at the administrative court session in Downtown Los Angeles. The judge set a hearing for Feb. 28 to give Akpulonu--who has worked at clinics in El Monte, Culver City and on the Westside of Los Angeles--an opportunity to respond to the suspension.
In the most recent fiscal year, records show, the medical board obtained orders temporarily suspending the licenses of 20 doctors.
In a separate case, the attorney general's office, acting on behalf of the board, has been attempting to suspend Akpulonu's license for alleged Medi-Cal fraud, falsifying records, dishonesty and inadequate sanitary procedures.
The state board and the attorney general were negotiating a settlement in that case but it was put on hold pending resolution of the allegations of sexual misconduct, said Jones, the deputy attorney general.
Martin Stanley, a Los Angeles attorney who represented Akpulonu on the earlier disciplinary case, said the physician "had a potential defense to each charge, other than one."
The one exception involves a misdemeanor conviction in March, 1991, when Akpulonu pleaded guilty to a violation of the California Welfare and Institution Code in connection with charges of Medi-Cal fraud, medical board records show.
Stanley said the board and Akpulonu had tentatively agreed to a settlement in which Akpulonu's medical license would have been suspended for six months and he would have been put on probation for five years.
However, Stanley added, the settlement had not been approved by the medical board.
Documents filed by the attorney general state that a patient told authorities that Akpulonu performed an abortion on her in a Culver City clinic Jan. 28, 1995. While still under anesthesia after the procedure, the documents state, she "awoke to find respondent raping her. . . . Respondent gave (the) patient . . . a shot and she went back to sleep."
In another case, a patient said Akpulonu fondled her after he performed an abortion on her at a South Gate clinic Nov. 9, 1992, according to the attorney general's filing. Another patient alleged that Akpulonu made sexual comments to her and touched her improperly during a clinic visit Aug. 2, 1994, the documents state.
Contributing to this article was Times staff writer Nancy Hill-Holtzman.