Dentist under fire could lose his license

State board wants his suspension made permanent

yamaro@mercedsunstar.comDecember 4, 2012 

A Merced dentist who's accused of sexually abusing four women could lose his license permanently, state officials said Tuesday.

In about two weeks, the Dental Board of California plans to file an accusation seeking to permanently prevent Dr. Sang Hyuk Park from practicing.

An administrative law judge on Monday temporarily suspended Park's license, effectively immediately, after a hearing at the state's Office of Administrative Hearings in Sacramento, according to Russ Heimerich, spokesman for the state Department of Consumer Affairs.

Heimerich said the state attorney general's office brought a case against Park on behalf of the state's dental board because of his criminal matter pending in Merced County Superior Court.

Park Family Dentistry was closed on Tuesday, but Park was in the office. He opened the door for a reporter, but declined to elaborate on the case and referred questions to his Sacramento-based attorney, Thomas Johnson.

The case to be filed by the dental board will go to the Office of Administrative Hearings and it then will be heard by an administrative law judge, a process that can take weeks, Heimerich said. The judge then will render a proposed decision, which will be returned to the dental board for a final determination. The board can choose to adopt it, not adopt it or modify it, Heimerich said.

"That's what we'll be seeking -- to permanently revoke his license," Heimerich said.

"We wouldn't file an accusation without plenty of evidence to do so," he added.

The temporary suspension of Park's license won't be removed until a final decision is made on the dental board's case. "The big thing for us was to suspend his license right now," Heimerich said. "We don't want him practicing dentistry."

Another administrative hearing is scheduled for Dec. 18 at which Park's attorney will have an opportunity to present evidence and to appeal the interim order.

Allegations denied

Defense lawyers Robert Zimmerman and Andrew Larsen are representing Park on his case with the dental board. Zimmerman said they are denying any criminal and wrongful conduct and they are intent on defending Park vigorously.

He wasn't able to discuss what kind of evidence they will present during the Dec. 18 hearing, but said they believe it will be compelling. "We hope to be successful, and again, we are denying any criminal or wrongful conduct at this point in time," he said.

Park's office must remain closed during his suspension, except for administrative purposes, according to court documents. As part of the judge's decision, Park is required to immediately notify patients of his temporary license suspension to allow them to make other dental arrangements.

Whenever a licensee is arrested, Heimerich said the dental board is typically notified, and proceedings at the state level can take place. Heimerich said the Merced County district attorney's office, dental board and Merced police have been collaborating on the case. Park, a Stockton resident, is charged with five counts of sexual battery and one count of sexual penetration. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Johnson, his attorney in the criminal case, has maintained his client is innocent. Johnson on Tuesday said he looks forward to a jury trial for his client.

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

Three additional women subsequently 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.

Park remains free on bail.

Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 385-2482 or yamaro@mercedsunstar.com.

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