From Andy Furillo:
A Sacramento lawyer must stand trial on charges that he inappropriately touched five clients he represented on divorce cases, a judge ruled today.
Gary Michael Appelblatt will face nine felony and four misdemeanor counts as a result of Sacramento Superior Court Judge Charlene P. Kiesselbach's decision after a one-day preliminary hearing. (Court records had his last name spelled as Appelblatt but the state Department of Motor Vehicles and the State Bar Association has his last name as Appelblatt.)
According to testimony provided by two Sacramento sheriff's detectives, Appelblatt told the women he had a pharmacist's degree and medical training and under that guise he conducted impromptu physical examinations on them in his American River Drive office.
Appelblatt proceeded to get the women partially undressed on his office couch before the clients stopped his sexual advances, the detectives said the alleged victims told them.
"I do believe these are vulnerable people he is taking advantage of," Deputy District Attorney Keith Hill argued at the end of the hearing. "He goes until they say no."
Appelblatt declined to comment after the hearing. His attorney, Tom Johnson, argued that the encounters were consensual.
"These were all adults," Johnson said. "They went into his office voluntarily and they dealt with him."
Detectives James Barnes and Anthony Brantley gave the accounts of the five women based on interviews they conducted with them.
The detectives testified that the four women said in interviews that Appelblatt told them he had a pharmacist's degree and that he further informed them that he thought they looked like they were sick.
They said he took out a stethoscope and a rubber physician's mallet and performed some routine examinations before he proceeded to conduct unrequested breast examinations on the women. He also sought to conduct a pelvic exam on one of the alleged victims, the detectives said.
Each of the four women told Appelblatt to stop, which prompted an apology on his part as well as requests for them to "keep it between them," the detectives testified.
"He asked her not to tell anybody about it," Brantley testified, about one of Appelblatt's encounters.
Johnson elicited testimony from Barnes that the one woman he interviewed told him that Appelblatt never used any force. Barnes also testified under questioning from Johnson that there was no suggestion in a series of e-mails between the woman and Appelblatt that she was offended by his actions.
One of the women told detectives that she was wearing a sundress with no bra and that Appelblatt removed the dress before engaging in sexually explicit behavior with her.
"She just kind of froze and wanted it to be done, to stop," Detective Brantley said.