An utterly horrible story: Aja Newman goes to the emergency room for severe shoulder pain. She’s given a sedative…then the doctor in charge gives her more drugs, despite her arguing that she doesn’t need so much. Next thing she knows, she groggily discovers the doctor groping her and masturbating on her. She has enough presence of mind to stuff the bedding into a cabinet and take it in later for forensic examination. The evidence is discovered.
Aja handed her bag full of bedding to a forensics team and watched as a technician turned the sheets over and over, spraying Luminol on them, inspecting them in darkness under UV light and spraying again. They weren’t finding anything, she could tell, and were about to wrap it up and send the bundle to another lab. It was looking like a dead end, and Aja could not tolerate that. She stopped them. “Spray that stuff on me,” she said.
Initially, the technician objected — the spray isn’t made for use on people. But Aja persisted. “I want to help,” she said. So the technician closed the door, Aja signed her consent and took off her hospital gown, and she was sprayed all over her body.
“I heard the whole room go” — here Aja sucks in her breath. “It was all over my face, all over between my breasts like I told her. I remember she started crying, and she was like, ‘Aja, don’t move.’ And she took the samples off my face. I believe that’s the only thing that caught him.” The definitive match was gathered, in the end, from a spot near Aja’s right eye.
Thus begins the downfall of Dr David Newman (no relation), who had been groping patients for years and doing who knows what else to them. He was considered a young medical superstar, giving TED talks (ugh) and publishing radical op-eds, getting rapidly promoted at Mt Sinai hospital, and praised for his novel insights. But his true nature was his slimy disregard for the patients he was treating.
It’s a long, ugly saga, where he is caught red-handed and indisputably guilty of sex crimes, followed by lots of other women stepping forward to testify against him. What really caught my eye was this little detail.
The Daily News published its first story two days later, on January 14. Support for David Newman poured in from everywhere. Friends and colleagues sent boosterish emails telling him to hang in there, that they believed in him, offering solace and help — unofficially from the American Academy of Emergency Medicine and from well-connected friends with resources and expertise. On social media and in private Facebook groups, current and former colleagues, acquaintances, students, and admirers swore their allegiance. “Dr. Newman is literally someone who has changed the ways thousands of other physicians practice medicine and by extension improved the lives of hundreds of thousands if not millions of patients around the world. This earns him the benefit of the doubt from me,” someone named Verjeep wrote in the comments of a news story.
Another theory went like this: Emergency rooms are notoriously difficult places to work. ER doctors regularly experience violence and harassment from patients, and half have been assaulted at work; they are frequently hit up for drugs by addicts in need. This victim was just such an addict. Or she wanted sex or money, was retaliating for an affair gone wrong, mistook him for someone else, and, when she didn’t get her way, made a false charge. “He’s the victim,” a close associate told me at the time. “I don’t believe that he would do anything like this. My routine day is getting yelled at and cursed at by patients who aren’t getting what they want. I can imagine details where something happened where she didn’t get what she wanted and maybe this is retaliation. Or maybe she received pain medicine and it made her a little loopy or she hallucinated him … ” Here he trailed off.
Every time. Every single goddamned time.