WAILUKU — A Hana doctor was found guilty of sexually assaulting a woman who testified he touched her inappropriately while he was at her home to provide medical treatment.
In a verdict returned Wednesday afternoon, a 2nd Circuit Court jury found Dr. Curtis Bekkum, 47, guilty as charged of two counts of fourth-degree sexual assault.
“We want to thank the jury for their service,” Deputy Prosecutor Ryan Teshima said. “We’re very happy that they believed (the victim) and stood with her. This just affirms that victims of sexual abuse and sexual assault will be heard in this community.”
Wailuku attorney Johnny Brown, who represented Bekkum, said “the judgment is not final for 30 days,” the deadline for the defense to file a notice of appeal.
During the trial, the woman testified she was living in Hana when Bekkum went to her house the night of Sept. 29, 2017, to give her an injection as part of treatment that was supposed to help her degenerative back condition. He had her take off her clothing and wear a paper surgical gown, she said.
“We argued about that,” she said. “He insisted I put on the paper gown. I asked could it be done with my clothes on. Clearly, I made a bad decision.”
After Bekkum gave her the injection, he asked if she was OK while reaching under the gown and touching her breast with his right hand while his other hand went toward her pubic area, she testified.
She said she sent him a text message the next morning saying the treatment was successful even though it wasn’t “because I did not want him to return to my house.”
The next night, she said she heard someone banging on her door and went out to check where her dogs were when she saw Bekkum. She was in her kitchen and had turned her back on him when he rubbed his private parts against her while they were both clothed, she testified. “Immediately I turned and was pushing him away,” she said.
The woman said she met Bekkum, a family practice doctor, in the summer of 2016 while she was working for a hospice patient that Bekkum was treating. Later, she worked with Bekkum on a project connected to a rat lungworm outbreak in Hana.
After what happened at her house, the woman said she told her daughter but didn’t confront Bekkum, in part because he was friends with her boss and she feared retaliation and losing her job.
About seven months later, in May 2018, she made a report to the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, then to police. She said her daughter, friends and therapist helped her decide to make the reports.
In closing arguments to the jury Wednesday, Brown asked jurors not to hold it against Bekkum because he exercised his constitutional right by choosing not to testify.
“Let me be clear that we deny all of the allegations in this case,” Brown said.
In arguing for a not-guilty verdict, Brown cited the seven-month delay in reporting and inconsistencies in the woman’s statements.
“The story changes after she speaks with police,” Brown said. “She’s talking to everybody, getting ideas. If you’ve been assaulted, you’re going to remember the details.”
He said her motivation was a lawsuit she filed against Bekkum. “I call it jackpot justice,” Brown said.
“This case is about credibility,” he said. “A crime unreported is a crime that never happened. One who is untruthful about the little things is untruthful about the big things.”
Teshima said the only “minor” inconsistency in the woman’s statements involved which hand the defendant used to touch her.
“This crime was reported several times,” he said. “This crime happened.”
Teshima said evidence showed the woman wasn’t motivated by money, which she didn’t receive by making the reports to DCCA and police or by obtaining a temporary restraining order against Bekkum in August 2018. She didn’t hire a civil attorney until September 2019 at the suggestion of a former prosecutor, Teshima said.
“She was in turmoil figuring out what to do,” he said. “Her therapist told her she would probably feel safer if she just got it out there instead of hiding this secret. She told you she was worried the defendant would victimize other women.”
Bekkum is set to be sentenced Oct. 13 on the misdemeanor charges, which carry penalties of up to one year in jail and a $2,000 fine. Bekkum has no prior criminal convictions, Brown said.
Judge Peter Cahill presided over the trial.
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.