Psychiatrist sentenced for fondling female patients

A psychiatrist accused of fondling 16 female patients quietly accepted a plea deal in Gwinnett County earlier this year that allowed him to serve no jail time and eventually have no criminal record if he successfully completes probation.

A few of the doctor's patients think he got off too easy, but most were in accord with the plea deal because they wanted to avoid having to testify at trial, Assistant District Attorney Robby King said.

Mohammad Uzair Qureshi, 48, pleaded guilty to eight counts of misdemeanor sexual battery March 28 and was sentenced to eight years' probation.

Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Warren Davis ordered Qureshi to surrender his medical license in Georgia, notify other states of his sentence and serve 100 hours of community service. Qureshi was also ordered to have no contact with women he was accused of groping at a Lawrenceville-based mental health clinic.

The judge granted Qureshi first-time offender status, so upon completion of his sentence he will not have a record of a conviction.

"Negotiations led to that result, which we think is appropriate given the facts," said Qureshi's defense attorney, Page Pate.

King said he consulted with all 16 victims about the negotiated plea, and all but two supported the deal.

Maria Huerta, who first reported being molested by Qureshi, believes he should have spent at least five years in jail.

A married mother of six who works at Sam's Club, Huerta, 47, was referred to the Gwinnett-Rockdale-Newton Community Services Board in Lawrenceville in 2007 for treatment of depression. The facility helps people such as Huerta who lack health insurance.

She said Qureshi sat her down, asked questions about her marriage and then asked her to lift up her shirt and bra. Then, after briefly pretending to check her breathing, Qureshi groped her breasts, Huerta said. After the appointment, Huerta immediately complained to another therapist at the center, who called the police.

Huerta is convinced that if she hadn't spoken up, Qureshi would still be victimizing women. After she came forward, other women began reporting similar experiences.

Police later learned that the director of the community services board had also warned Qureshi in April 2007 about inappropriately touching two other patients.

"He had no right to do what he did," Huerta said in a phone interview, her voice quivering with emotion. "I went there looking for help. He had taken an oath to look after his patients."

Another victim who attended the sentencing hearing also voiced disappointment in Qureshi's sentence, Huerta said.

King said he was surprised to hear about Huerta's objection this week. He said she had agreed with the plea sentence when she was contacted before the hearing.

Qureshi spent a day in jail when he was first arrested Sept. 28, 2007. He was released on $33,200 bond.

After more victims started coming forward, Qureshi was arrested again Oct. 9, 2007. That time, he spent 10 days in jail before being released on $75,000 bond and required to submit to GPS monitoring.

Qureshi was indicted on 27 counts of sexual assault by a practitioner of psychotherapy against a patient, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. The negotiated guilty plea was to eight misdemeanor charges of sexual battery, which carries a lesser penalty of up to 12 months in prison or probation and a $1,000 fine.

He was fired from the community services board. Qureshi also resigned in lieu of termination from a second job at Northwest Georgia Regional Hospital in Rome.

Attorney Chris Simon, who represents Huerta, said Qureshi's patients were mostly low-income people. Some of them had criminal convictions, others had drug issues, and many had histories of sexual abuse that Qureshi would have known about by looking at their files, Simon said.

"That appears to be kind of what he played on," Simon said.