The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

January 10, 2013

Todd Gavin not guilty of sexually assaulting patients

Eye doctor cleared on all counts

MANKATO — Todd Gavin was cleared by a jury Thursday of all six sexual conduct charges after two women reported they had been inappropriately touched by the eye doctor or unnecessarily disrobed at his request.

He hugged his crying wife as the judge read the sixth "not guilty," then embraced one of his attorneys, Michael McDonald. All 12 jurors were asked to call out their verdict, and the four women and eight men confirmed: "not guilty."

The jurors ignored requests for comment as they filed out of the Justice Center single-file after the verdict and about five hours of deliberation.

The case largely pitted Gavin's word against that of his patients, though McDonald said there was more doubt about the prosecution's case than in some other "he said/she said" cases. The attorney also said the six character witnesses helped to describe his client as a doctor with integrity.

The case began on May 17, 2010, when two women were examined by Gavin in back-to-back appointments at the Mankato Clinic. One woman reported the alleged assaults that night, and the other waited until August of that year.

During closing arguments Thursday morning, the prosecutor sought to establish certainty in jurors' minds and the defense attorney tried to plant doubt, apparently successfully, in that account.

Each of the two women suffered from a "betrayal of trust," Assistant Blue Earth County Attorney Michael Hanson said.

"Both of these young women went to the doctor for issues concerning their eyes and they were taken advantage of," he said.

The defense, though, described a doctor punished for being thorough.

And even if he had wanted to molest a patient, it's implausible he would have chosen these two, McDonald said.

"I'll pick the one whose mom is in the room with me," he said sarcastically.

And the second woman had "shingles that could be connected to AIDS," making her another unlikely target, he said.

Both women's names were repeatedly mentioned in court, though The Free Press does not identify alleged victims of sexual abuse in criminal cases.

While both women made similar claims, the jury had to weigh different competing claims in each case.

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