Key state witness did not appear before grand jury that declined to charge West Linn doctor accused of sexual abuse
More than 100 people told the West Linn Police Department that former doctor David Farley sexually abused them. The chief of police believes them. But prosecutors didn’t secure charges
Warning: This story contains descriptions of alleged sexual assault and child sex abuse.
Earlier this month, a Clackamas County grand jury announced its decision not to indict former West Linn doctor David Farley on criminal charges. Seventy-one women and children who say they were sexually assaulted by Farley are demanding a new criminal investigation into their allegations.
Grand jury transcripts are secret. But using interviews and available public records, OPB has tried to learn more about why — in a case with so many reported victims — not a single criminal charge was brought.
Not all of the available evidence fully supports the reported victims’ claims that the case was mishandled. Nor does it entirely prove the public agencies involved did their utmost to secure charges against a man accused by more than 100 people of repeated abuses, some of which he admitted to the Oregon Medical Board.
It does seem clear that many potential witnesses did not testify, including one key state witness. And it could be that the same agency responsible for blocking that witness is the same one to which the alleged victims are currently appealing for help.
In a scathing letter to the state’s attorney general, many of the alleged victims accuse the Clackamas County District Attorney’s Office and the West Linn Police Department of mishandling the Farley investigation and belittling the women and children who filed complaints. Thirty women signed their full names and 41 signed as “Jane Doe,” four of whom are minors.
The Harvard-educated family physician, who was also a leader in his church, lost his license in 2020 after the Oregon Medical Board found he had sexually exploited patients. So how, say the people who signed the letter, could a Clackamas County grand jury have declined to bring criminal charges this month?
“It is painfully clear to us that the Clackamas County District Attorney and [West Linn Police Department] are unwilling to properly investigate and prosecute this case in a manner that protects women and children from a serial sexual predator,” the women write in their letter to Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, asking that the state conduct a new criminal investigation into Farley.
“We are appealing to [Rosenblum] to take that extraordinary step based on the egregious conduct of the county and local officials in this case,” said Courtney Thom, an attorney with Manly, Stewart & Finaldi who is representing the alleged victims.
A spokesperson for Rosenblum said the Oregon Department of Justice is “reviewing the letter.”
In response, the Clackamas County district attorney, John Wentworth, is disclosing information about a normally secret grand jury proceeding and lobbing his own accusations against the attorneys representing the alleged victims in a related civil lawsuit.
In a written response last week and in interviews with OPB, Wentworth defended his office’s handling of the matter. He said the six-member grand jury considered multiple potential charges against Farley, including unlawful sexual penetration, sexual abuse, invasion of personal privacy and harassment.
The grand jury spent four months reviewing evidence, with the help of a medical expert and a child abuse expert, before reaching their decision not to indict on any charges, Wentworth said. Over the course of several interviews with OPB, Wentworth said prosecutors presented “all the evidence that the law would allow,” and said the attorneys handling the alleged victims’ civil litigation were given multiple opportunities to present any additional evidence and declined to do so.
“They still have that opportunity,” he said.
Wentworth said if new evidence comes to light, he can seek court approval to reopen the case against Farley, but that so far no new evidence has been presented to him.
The accusations against Farley
The women and children who signed the letter are represented in an ongoing civil case against Farley by the D’Amore Law Group, a local firm, and Manly, Stewart & Finaldi, the lead firm involved in the civil litigation over former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, who abused gymnasts in his care for years before being prosecuted and found guilty. The Farley case and its associated criminal proceedings have been followed closely for the past two years by West Linn Tidings, the local newspaper.
Like Nassar’s victims, the women and children involved in the West Linn case say Farley, 64, used his medical credentials and his role as a trusted doctor to sexually abuse them under the guise of providing exams and other medical procedures.
Many of the alleged victims first met Farley through the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where they were members and he served as a stake high counselor, a leadership role for multiple wards, or congregations, according to their letter. They say Farley used his position to earn their trust and manipulate them.
A civil lawsuit filed against Farley in October 2020, which is currently being heard in Multnomah County Circuit Court, seeks $290 million from the former doctor and the family clinic and hospital systems where he practiced. The lawsuit alleges the abuse started for many patients in their early teens when they claim Farley began conducting repeated and unnecessary pelvic exams, though some victims reported the abuse began when they were much younger. Patients also allege that Farley made sexual comments during their exams.
One allegation in the civil suit is on behalf of a child who was reportedly subjected to approximately 15 ungloved, digitally penetrative pelvic exams between the ages of 1 and 4, when they were a patient of Farley’s between 2016 and 2020.
It is very important for the victims to know that we believed the allegations they brought to us.West Linn Police Chief Peter Mahuna
No current published medical guidelines recommend routine gynecological examinations or Pap smears in women under the age of 21, according to the Oregon Medical Board.
The lawsuit alleges Farley would sometimes require pelvic exams before he would prescribe medications needed for unrelated health problems, or he would give patients false diagnoses of HPV or cancer. Other patients report that Farley insisted on breaking their hymens, a thin membrane inside the vagina often considered an indication of virginity, and performed unnecessary hymenectomy surgeries. Multiple former patients also allege Farley sexually abused them during pregnancy, labor and delivery.
An attorney representing Farley in the civil case did not respond to multiple requests for comment. In court filings, his attorneys have said they could not respond to the claims against Farley in civil court while he was under criminal investigation.
Farley is now living in St. Anthony, Idaho, according to his LinkedIn account. He does not appear to have a medical license in Idaho.
Medical Board revokes license
The Oregon Medical Board investigated Farley and in 2020 found, based on interviews and a review of patients’ medical records, that Farley had subjected patients younger than 18 to repeated gynecological exams that weren’t medically necessary. During that investigation, Farley admitted to soliciting photos of the genitals of pubescent children in his care under the guise of an educational “puberty study,” according to records from the medical board.
The board concluded that Farley’s behavior amounted to sexual misconduct, meaning his actions had exploited the doctor-patient relationship in a sexual way and were not diagnostic or therapeutic.
The board revoked Farley’s medical license in October 2020 and barred him from ever applying for another medical license or practicing medicine in Oregon, based on the results of their investigation. Farley did not admit or deny wrongdoing, and waived his right to a hearing.
In 2020, Farley successfully sued to keep a transcript of his testimony to the medical board, and other records in the medical board’s investigation, from being publicly released.
Through a public records request, OPB learned that the West Linn Police Department did get access to the Oregon Medical Board’s full investigative file on Farley. However, the investigator in this case did not testify at the Clackamas County grand jury.
Records show the district attorney subpoenaed the Oregon Medical Board seeking to bring the investigator in to testify on April 26. The redacted communications provided by the medical board are incomplete and do not clarify why the investigator, Jason Carruth, did not testify in this case.
The records show Carruth was out of the country at the time of the initial request but said he was willing to testify in an email on May 2 to Deputy District Attorney Sarah Dumont, who led the investigation for the Farley case.
An email later forwarded to OPB by the district attorney’s office, shows that Dumont wrote back to Carruth the same day to say she was in touch with the state lawyer responsible for the medical board to negotiate the extent of his testimony.
“They had an assistant attorney general sharing with us that they would fight our subpoena,” Wentworth told OPB. “It was a telephone conversation.”
The Oregon Department of Justice, which is overseen by the attorney general, is the state agency the alleged victims and their lawyers have appealed to for a new criminal investigation.
The Farley investigation
The West Linn Police Department and the Clackamas County District Attorney’s Office began investigating the case in 2020 after the Oregon Medical Board finished its investigation.
The reported victims say in their letter that from the outset of the criminal investigation, the lead detective and deputy DA Dumont commented that it would be difficult to bring a case because Farley was a doctor. The attitude that a case against a doctor would be difficult to prove, the women say, colored the entire investigation, even as more witnesses came forward with similar allegations of abuse.
The detective working on the case approached the investigation with “a closed mind” and “an unwillingness to do the work,” they write.
West Linn Police Chief Peter Mahuna said in a statement that he understands victims are angry.
“It is very important for the victims to know that we believed the allegations they brought to us,” Mahuna wrote. “The decision of the grand jury should not be a measure of the amount of effort that was put into this investigation.”
For his part, Wentworth said he was “not surprised” by the grand jury’s decision not to indict Farley on any criminal charges in spite of the high number of victims who came forward.
“The fact that so many of these allegations occurred in the context of a medical examination does make the case more difficult, because there are exceptions in the criminal law for procedures that are done in a medical context,” Wentworth said in an interview. He said he would expect his deputies to convey that message to reported victims in a case like this.
Thom, the plaintiffs’ attorney and a former prosecutor herself, characterized Wentworth’s attitude toward the case as sending a message to doctors that they can “do as they please.”
“The vast majority of doctors don’t abuse their patients,” Thom said. “But those who do, like Farley, must be held to account.”
The letter also alleges that the lead detective working the case and Dumont, the deputy DA, made unprofessional and callous comments.
For example, the letter-writers say Dumont laughed at those who shared that Farley had digitally penetrated their vagina without gloves and commented that “just because he didn’t wear gloves, doesn’t make it abuse.”
Wentworth said he expects professional conduct from his deputies and is looking into these allegations. He declined OPB’s request to speak directly to Dumont.
What the grand jury knew
While grand jury proceedings are secret, the letter raises two key questions about the scope of the evidence the grand jury reviewed over the four months it spent considering the case.
First, the alleged victims have questioned why more of them weren’t called to testify before the panel. More than 100 reported victims spoke with the West Linn Police Department, according to Wentworth. Of those, “dozens” testified before the grand jury, he said.
According to Wentworth, some reported victims weren’t able to testify because there wasn’t plausible evidence “beyond a feeling” that a crime had occurred. In other cases, he said the statute of limitations had passed, or reported victims weren’t available or willing to testify.
Wentworth and Thom agree that evidentiary rules barred prosecutors from telling the grand jury that Farley had been stripped of his license. In dispute is how much the grand jury heard — and should have heard — about the rest of the evidence uncovered during the Oregon Medical Board’s investigation.
For example, the reported victims complained that the grand jury should have heard evidence that Farley had admitted to taking photographs of the genitals of five patients who were younger than 18. Wentworth said some evidence surrounding the photos was presented. The grand jury transcripts are not publicly available.
During the Oregon Medical Board’s investigation, Farley admitted to taking nude photographs of the breasts and genitals of five patients under the age of 18. He claimed the photographs were for an educational presentation on how children develop during puberty and during questioning by the medical board, and said he had received written consent from their parents. He told the medical board he had deleted the photographs and shredded the signed consent forms.
According to a notice summarizing the medical board’s findings and obtained by OPB, the board found that every aspect of Farley’s conduct in that situation, including using his personal cellphone to take the pictures, compromising patient privacy for an unnecessary “study” of a well-documented phenomena, attempting to conceal the unethical nature of what he was doing by soliciting patient consent, and destroying of the records, violated professional ethical standards.
Thom, the lawyer representing some of the women, told OPB in an email on Sept. 22 that Dumont “expressly and unequivocally” told many of her clients that “no evidence of Farley’s child pornography was presented” to the grand jury. Thom said this happened at a meeting Dumont called to deliver the grand jury’s decision to the alleged victims. And, she said, that information wouldn’t have had to come from the Oregon Medical Board.
“West Linn Police Department and the Clackamas County D.A.’s office were in possession of reports made by victims regarding themselves being filmed by Dr. Farley, in the nude, of their genitals,” Thom said. “None of that was presented to the grand jury.”
OPB asked Wentworth multiple times about what the grand jury knew about Farley photographing the genitals of his minor patients.
The incompetence, and now mistrust, of those charged and elected with public safety is astonishing.Courtney Thom, an attorney with Manly, Stewart & Finaldi who is representing the alleged victims
Wentworth initially couldn’t answer the question. In follow up interviews, he said prosecutors did not attempt to bring child pornography charges against Farley because they didn’t think they had enough evidence that a crime had occurred.
However, Wentworth said that a misunderstanding had occurred during Dumont’s meeting with survivors. Some evidence related to Farley photographing patients’ genitals was presented to the grand jury in support of other charges. And though no one from the medical board testified, Wentworth said the grand jury heard testimony from former patients, Farley’s staff, partners at the medical clinic and law enforcement officers.
A variety of obstacles made it hard to pursue child pornography charges, Wentworth said.
There was no physical evidence of the photographs, which Farley admitted to the medical board he had taken and deleted. As part of the criminal investigation, the FBI searched Farley’s iCloud account and found no photos, according to Wentworth.
Wentworth said that naked photos of children alone, such as those taken by parents of kids playing in the bath, do not constitute pornography. According to Wentworth, his office had “no evidence” that the photos were sexually explicit or that he was getting “sexual gratification” from them. And Farley had made no secret of taking the photos.
“The question isn’t just, did he take pictures of children who were undressed? He did. He admitted that he did,” Wentworth said. “The question is, did he do it for his own or someone else’s sexual gratification? And did he take pictures of kids in a sexually explicit manner? And those were legal definitions that were not met in this case.”
Still, the lawyer for the alleged victims sees the lack of clarity from the Clackamas County District Attorney’s Office about what was, and wasn’t, presented to the grand jury as yet another sign of the problems she says were inherent in this investigation from the start.
“This is exactly why we have asked the Attorney General to take over his prosecution, review the process of the Grand Jury and investigation to date, and give survivors the justice they deserve.”
This story was originally published by Amelia Templeton and Conrad Wilson of OPB.