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Lawyer will fight for doctor again

Acquitted on molestation charges, Dr. Zafar Shah's license remains restricted. His lawyer promises a fight.

By CHASE SQUIRES

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 29, 2000


DADE CITY -- The attorney who successfully defended Dr. Zafar Syed Shah against a sexual battery charge this week vowed Friday to fight for his client's medical license in a showdown with state health officials.

Attorney A.R. "Chip" Mander, who helped Shah win an acquittal over allegations that the doctor molested a 15-year-old patient last year, said findings by the secretary of the state Department of Health are wrong. He said he will strive to have the agency lift restrictions locked on the doctor's license by emergency order last month.

The 34-year-old doctor was accused of sexual misconduct in three separate instances last year. Two of the accusations disintegrated before trial -- one even after investigators claimed he confessed. The third case ended in an acquittal Wednesday after a day of testimony.

Mander said Dr. Robert G. Brooks, secretary of the Department of Health, did not hear Shah's defense before barring Shah from examining female patients and declaring the doctor "an immediate and serious danger to the health, safety and welfare of the public."

Brooks' signed order includes several "findings of fact" stating the doctor had inappropriate sexual contact with three female teenage patients last year.

But Mander disputed Brooks' findings and said the facts are still in question. He said Brooks' ruling is not a punishment, merely a suspension until the facts can be determined.

In his report, Brooks reported, "Based on the foregoing findings of fact, the secretary concludes that Dr. Shah has violated (state law) by engaging or attempting to engage a patient or client in verbal or physical sexual activity."

A hearing will be set before an administrative law judge, and Mander said he will put on a defense for his client.

"He hasn't even been served with the complaint yet," Mander said Friday. "It's been one-sided . . . . There has been no due-process yet."

Mander said it would not be in his client's interest to comment directly to the Times. But when he did speak publicly, testifying at his trial this week, Shah denied he ever touched the girl.

Department of Health spokesman Bill Parizek said in the usual course of business, a complaint leads to an investigation, then an administrative panel determines if there is probable cause, and both sides work toward an agreed upon resolution.

If no agreement is reached, an administrative law judge hears the complaint, and the judge files a recommendation that is reviewed by the state's Board of Medicine.

But in cases deemed emergencies, such as Shah's, Parizek said the secretary of the Department of Health can make his own ruling, which is in effect until the case works its way through the system.

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