Nude photos prompt complaint
Martin Independent Journal
by Gary Klien
Sunday, December 14, 2003
In a case that prosecutors deemed too ambiguous for criminal charges, state authorities have suspended a San Rafael psychologist for taking Polaroid photographs of a naked patient during an unorthodox therapy session in 2002.
Andrew Gootnick's one-year license suspension by the stat Board of Psychology is set to take effect Jan. 3, but his lawyer has filed an appeal in Sacramento Superior Court to get the decision stayed. Meanwhile, Gootnick, a Novato resident, is also facing a civil lawsuit in Marin filed by the patient, who claims he was sexually exploited while under hypnosis.
Gootnicks's attorney, John Fleer of Walnut Creek, said the psychologist is being framed by a litigious opportunist seeking a malpractice payout. The patient, Mark Gharemani of San Lorenzo, secretly videotaped the therapy session by hiding a camera in a duffel bag, according to court documents.
"This is a guy who has been setup by a patient, and everyone who has looked at this carefully realized that" Fleer said. "The board, for whatever reason, decided to impose an especially harsh sanction."
But Gharemani, 35, his only motive was to seek emotional help after the death last year of his fiancee's infant daughter, whom he considered his own child.
"I am scarred for life," Gharemani said in an interview. "The reason I went to see him was for grief, and the grief was exploding within me into a thousand pieces."
Gootnick, who has been practicing psychology for 25 years with no prior disciplinary action, declined to comment for this article. But the details of the case are laid out in extensive documentation generated since June 2002, when Gharemani came forward with his allegations.
According to documents filed with state regulators and the courts, Gharemani had been seeking treatment from Gootnick off and on since 1992, when he reported job-related anxiety stemming from workplace racial discrimination at a shipping company. Later, Gharemani sought treatment again for "depression and anxiety related to childhood violence between his parents," his lawyers said in their civil suit.
Gootnick diagnosed Gharemani with post-traumatic stress disorder and deemed him paranoid and possibly delusional, authorities said. Gootnick continued seeing Gharemani until 1994, when the doctor terminated treatment for unspecified reasons.
In 1997, Gootnick was deposed in Gharemani's law suit against his employer, authorities said. Gootnick's deposition "was not completely favorable toward the patient and ultimately the patient apparently lost his lawsuit," according to the documents. Gharemani said he did not lose the suit, but that it was dismissed because the statue of limitations had expired.
Yet Gharemani sought Gootnick's sought Gootnick's treatment again in March 2002, and the psychologist accepted him as a patient. The following month, Gharemani reported that his fiancee's daughter had been killed by a hit-and-run in San Pablo.
According to news reports, 19-month-old Kinade Fudge died and three other people were injured on April 13, 2002, when a Toyota ran off the road and struck them at Road 20 and 19th Street. The driver, a San Pablo man, was arrested the next day in San Francisco police said.
Gootnick told state investigator that Gharemani was suicidal, agitated and suffering extreme pain In his genitals. Gharemani saw a poster on the wail about "body work therapy" — a rare therapeutic technique in which a patient disrobes. — and "pleaded" with Gootnick for the treatment, according to state documents.
Gootnick told authorities he is a follower of Stanley Keleman, director of the Center for Energetic Studieain Berkeley, who specializes in the "study of the body and its connection to the
California therapists have received such a penalty since July 1998.
Over the same time period, the state board has fielded 2905 complaints, opened788 investigations issued 205 citations and revoked 16 licenses.
Bruce Gurganus, Marina mental-health director, said the county has no similar license oversight, but it does conduct background and records checks on all country -employed therapists or those who contract with the county.
"If someone did get in trouble with the state licensing board and lost their license, we of course wouldn't be able to do business with them," said Gurganus, who has worked for the department for 20 years. "There have been people who have lost licenses for one reason or another, but it's pretty rare. I don't think state hearings, denies that he asked Gootnick to perform the special therapy. He also denies that he was setting Gootnick up for a malpractice suit.
"All I know is, I wanted to kill myself," Gharemani said in an interview Friday. "I wanted to be with little Kinade."
Meanwhile, Gharemani's civil suit in Mann Superior Court is scheduled for a case management conference on Feb. 10. Gharemani is seeking unspecified damages on claims of medical malpractice intentional infliction of emotional distress, sexual contact by a psychotherapist, battery, sexual battery, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, sexual harassment and negligence, according to documents. Gootnick's attorneys have denied all the allegations.