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Ex-doctor gets 20 years for rape

by Noel S. Brady
Journal Reporter

A former gynecologist from Bellevue was sentenced Monday to 20 years in prison for sexually assaulting his patients on the examination table.

Dr. Charles Momah's sentencing provided long-awaited relief for nearly 50 women who said he assaulted them. Justice came to them after years spent battling the state health department and enduring threats by Momah himself.

In a letter to the court, one woman said she had been a patient of Momah's for six years when he first assaulted her during an exam at his Burien office in 2000.

``This violation of my body attacked me mentally, physically and emotionally and today still possesses me,'' she wrote.

What complicated her situation and that of other victims, she said, was the fact that Momah had gotten her hooked on prescription painkillers. He knew he had total control over them, she said.

The fact that many of the drug-addicted women continued seeing Momah for gynecological treatments after he first assaulted them became one factor in Momah's argument for a sentence below the standard range of 17 to 23 years.

Momah's attorney, David Allen, also asked the judge for a reduced sentence because his client's health is poor and getting worse with high blood pressure and diabetes. He said it's unlikely Momah, 49, will get adequate medical treatment in a prison hospital.

Momah's sentencing Monday by Superior Court Judge Michael Trickey came nearly three months after a jury of six men and six women convicted him on one count each of second- and third-degree rape and two counts of indecent liberties with patients.

At sentencing, three women, including the letter writer, provided statements to the court about how Momah's assaults and violations of their trust continue to affect them.

``I also came to learn that all those years of his treatments were nothing more than lies, so he could get his kicks and collect some extra money at my expense,'' the letter writer said.

Senior Deputy Prosecutor Roger Rogoff argued for a high-end, 23-year sentence for Momah, focusing on his breach of doctor-patient trust.

``Given the defendant's position of authority, his multiple sexual criminal acts and his apparent disdain for the women he had sworn to care for,'' Rogoff said, ``the only appropriate sentence in this case is the high end of the standard range.''

Bellevue attorney Harish Bharti has filed civil lawsuits against Momah on behalf of nearly 50 women who say the doctor assaulted them. Prior to sentencing, Bharti filed a 748-page legal brief arguing on behalf of Momah's victims that he be sentenced to the longest possible prison term.

Despite the judge's mid-range sentence for Momah, Bharti said his clients are satisfied knowing the doctor will be locked up for years to come.

``My clients are very pleased with the decision of the judge,'' Bharti said. ``Momah will not be walking the streets of Seattle victimizing them.''

Included in Bharti's legal brief are sworn depositions from several women who said Momah threatened them with attack by Nigerian street-gang thugs if they assisted in his prosecution.

Following a monthlong trial in November, a jury found Momah guilty of performing gynecological exams without wearing gloves, sexually touching patients, probing them unnecessarily with a vaginal ultrasound wand and flirting with them inappropriately.

Near the end of the trial, Momah took the witness stand to defend himself. He did not deny having sex with his patients, but claimed the sex was consensual.

At sentencing, several of Momah's relatives spoke on his behalf, asking the judge for leniency.

Born and raised in Nigeria, Momah was trained there and in Canada, then began practicing in Georgia and New York. In 1993, he moved to Bellevue and opened clinics in Burien, Federal Way and, for a short time, in Issaquah. They all have closed since the state suspended his medical license in 2003.

In 2000, Jolie Campbell, a former patient of Momah's, told the state health department officials and the King County Sheriff's Office that Momah had performed unnecessary surgery on her, deliberately got her addicted to painkillers, raped her five years earlier and told her no one would believe her if she reported the rape because she was addicted to drugs.

Deputies investigated, but prosecutors decided there wasn't enough evidence to file charges.

Momah continued practicing until Sept. 11, 2003, when his license was suspended after another patient reported being raped.

Several of Momah's victims have filed civil lawsuits against the state health department for failing to act sooner on the complaints.

Three more charges of insurance fraud are set for trial next April. If convicted on those counts, Momah could remain in jail for more than 23 years.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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