BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) – An orthopedic surgeon already facing charges he molested a patient had 12 more counts added to his case Thursday after 11 more women came forward to say he had sexually assaulted them during exams.

But a lawyer for Dr. Joseph A. Abate called the charges “reckless,” and said Abate would fight them.

“It is medicine, not sex, that is described in these,” said attorney Eric Miller. “Really, the question is “Was this proper medicine?”

Abate, head of sports medicine at Fletcher Allen Health Care’s orthopedic and rehabilitation department, pleaded not guilty to the new charges. He now faces 14 counts in all.

He was first charged in June, after a 22-year-old patient accused him of improperly touching her genitals during an exam for knee surgery.

Now, a total of 12 women have come forward and the investigation is continuing, said Attorney General William Sorrell.

On Thursday, the state sought to increase his bail to $1 million, citing the new charges. Currently, he is free on $10,000 bail.

“What has changed is the breadth of evidence and weight of evidence,” Assistant Attorney General Cindy Maguire told the judge. “We now have 12 victims who have come forward.”

But Vermont District Court Judge Linda Levitt denied the request, saying Abate – who has three children in high school – has strong ties to South Burlington and “appears to be fighting the charges vigorously.”

She released him on condition that he surrender his passport, not travel out of state without permission from the court, have no contact with the alleged victims and submit to police photographs and fingerprinting by Friday.

Miller, his attorney, said Abate told state investigators that he had conducted the exams “on a number of patients over the past five and 10 years. He told them … that each of those examinations, including the examinations on these complaining witnesses, were medically proper and were done for the sole reason of treating his patient’s condition.”

In some cases, Abate performed the exams without wearing gloves and without telling the patients beforehand, Maguire said. Many occurred after hours, and patients were not billed, she said.

“This case isn’t about gloves; it isn’t about billing,” Miller said.

Both sides asked the judge to put the case on a fast track.

Maguire said she has testimony from orthopedic surgeons who said they would not have performed such exams. But Miller said Abate would have the support of medical experts from around the country.

“He’s going to come back and he is going to prove his innocence before a jury in this case,” he said.

Abate, who is on administrative leave from his job, appeared in court at the arraignment along with his wife, but made no statements, in court or outside.


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