Dentist pleads not guilty in sex abuse case

vpatton@mercedsunstar.comNovember 28, 2012 

— Merced dentist Sang Hyuk Park pleaded not guilty Wednesday in Merced County Superior Court to allegations that he sexually abused four women.

Dressed in a business suit, Park, 43, left the courtroom after the brief hearing, declining questions from reporters.

Merced police arrested Park, a Stockton resident, at his 3040 Park Ave. office Tuesday afternoon on five counts of sexual battery and one count of sexual penetration. He was released from jail after posting bail Tuesday evening.

After Wednesday's hearing, Park's attorney Thomas Johnson said his client is a highly competent dentist who's innocent of the charges. Johnson questioned why his client was arrested on Tuesday, when he was already scheduled to appear in court today for his arraignment hearing.

"Dr. Park is not guilty of the charges and the investigation has been unusual, at best," he said. "Everything the office of the district attorney is doing seems like a thinly veiled attempt to get him into custody prior to the case being heard."

In response to Johnson's claim about the investigation, Chief Deputy District Attorney Rob Carroll said his office is very confident with the evidence police obtained.

Carroll said the evidence includes a phone call between one of the victims and Park recorded by law enforcement.

Carroll said all of the women in the case also gave similar stories.

Merced Police Lt. Tom Trindad said police served a second search warrant Tuesday at Park's Merced office.

Park was first arrested last month after a woman contacted Merced police, saying she'd been abused while receiving dental work. The woman told police she was in and out of consciousness, but awakened to find some of her clothing had been removed and Park exposing himself.

The three additional women included in the district attorney's complaint came forward to report similar allegations, prosecutors said.

According to a police report, some of the women in the case claimed Park took inappropriate photos while they were under the influence of sedation medication.

Police said last month that a photo found during a search warrant had been taken as evidence in the case, although they did not elaborate further.

Park's Merced office was closed Wednesday.

City Editor Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or vpatton@mercedsunstar.com.