Doctor accused of sexually assaulting woman under hypnosis

Published: Oct. 12, 2009 at 9:30 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 13, 2009 at 11:11 AM CDT
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Dr. John O'Connell (Source: Shelby County Sheriff's Department)
Dr. John O'Connell (Source: Shelby County Sheriff's Department)

By Nick Kenney - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - A Mid-South doctor has been charged with sexually assaulting a patient while she was under hypnosis.

According to investigators, Dr. John O'Connell, an internist at Lakeside Behavioral Health Center, is accused of taking advantage of a female patient while she was under hypnosis.

The victim, who investigators have not identified, works for O'Connell at Lakeside.  According to the affidavit of complaint, O'Connell offered to help the victim quit smoking through hypnosis.  According to Shelby County Sheriff's Department spokesperson Steve Shular, the pair completed their first session at Lakeside.

"She said she'd gotten some relief from smoking," Shular said.

Before the second session, O'Connell told her he'd rather treat her at his "satellite office," but then drove her to the Relax Inn on Canada Road.

In a room at the motel, O'Connell allegedly hypnotized the woman, took off her shoes, socks, and shirt, and then fondled her breasts.  During the incident, the woman told investigators, she could not open her eyes or move her limbs, no matter how hard she tried.

"Since she was under hypnosis, there was nothing she could do about that," Shular said.

O'Connell told investigators the victim had given him permission to take off her shirt.  When he asked her to take off her bra, she declined, so he replaced her shirt, took her out of hypnosis and ended the session.

Shular said O'Connell was arrested and later released from jail on his own recognizance.  He has been charged with felony sexual battery, a charge that requires the victim to have been physically helpless or mentally incapacitated at the time of the offense.

The alleged victim told investigators that she'd trusted O'Connell like a father.  At this point, his attorney has not returned our request for comment.

Lakeside released the following statement:

The alleged incident did not involve a current or former patient of Lakeside and did not happen at Lakeside Hospital.  Dr. O'Connell, since being charged, has not provided services at Lakeside. We will cooperate fully with authorities as they continue their investigation.
Anthony (Tony) Porter
Director of Business Development
Lakeside Behavioral Health System

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