Dentist accused of assault appears in court

02/05/2013 1:23 AM

02/05/2013 1:24 AM

A Merced dentist accused of sexually abusing four female patients made a brief appearance in court Monday.

Four women told Merced police they were sexually abused, some while sedated, when they were patients at the dental office of Dr. Sang Hyuk Park, who's facing six counts of sexual abuse. He remains free on bail.

On Monday, Park was in court with defense attorney Thomas Johnson to confirm that they are ready for the preliminary hearing.

The preliminary hearing was scheduled by Merced County Judge Mark Bacciarini for 1:30 p.m. Monday. The hearing is to determine if there is enough evidence to move forward with a trial.

"Dr. Park maintains his innocence, and we look forward to trial," Johnson said.

He said they also began their own investigation because somebody created a Facebook page after the first story about Park was published. Only after that did other people come forward and make allegations, Johnson said.

The defense doesn't know who created the page or when it went up. Johnson said he can't find it, but it was cited in police reports.

Additionally, Johnson said two of the claimed victims were employees at Park's office and continued to work after the claimed assaults. The other two were patients who also continued to see Park for treatment "numerous" times after they claimed to have been assaulted, he added.

"That much we know," Johnson said.

Those are some of the issues Johnson will raise during Monday's preliminary hearing.

Johnson expects to be ready for trial in about six months. He said Park is anxious to have some resolution.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Rob Carroll said there's no new information on the prosecution's side of the case at this point. He said he will present enough evidence to hold Park for trial.

Lawyers Robert Zimmerman and Andrew Larsen were representing Park before the dental board. However, lawyer Michael Ko-walski is his new attorney in the dental board case.

An administrative law judge in early December temporarily suspended Park's license.

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

Kowalski said there's no new information with Park's dental board case.

"It will probably be on hold until the criminal matter resolves," he said.

There are several actions the board could take, but the most severe would be to revoke his license so he can't practice anymore, Kowalski said.

If Park were found innocent in his criminal case, his dental board case would disappear, he said.

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

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