On Wednesday, pediatrician Earl Bradley shuffled into a Delaware courtroom, shackles and handcuffs accessorizing a gray prison jumpsuit above white sneakers. It was the first time he'd been seen publicly since the last time I wrote about his case here, almost a month ago, when he was indicted on 471 counts of child molestation.
Some in the audience, parents of his victims, cried openly. Others tried to get a closer look as Bradley moved to the lectern and pled not guilty to all 471 counts. These were all brutal acts that took place during thousands of visits to BayBees Pediatrics (below right), the private practice where countless parents in the sleepy fishing village of Lewes, population 3,000, trustingly took their children. From the outside, the office looked more like Disney Land, with a miniature Ferris wheel and colorful merry-go-round beckoning children. But inside, authorities say, it was a true house of horrors.
From as far back as 1998 until his arrest in December of 2009, prosecutors charge, Bradley forced at least 102 children as young as three months old to engage in sexual acts, including vaginal intercourse and oral sex with him. Often he took the kids to a basement room after the exam, without their parents. "Come down to my toy chest and pick out a prize," he'd tell toddlers and older kids alike. They'd be gone just a few minutes -- but long enough for him to do unspeakable things and damage them forever. The children would return to their parents, toys in hand.
Sometimes Bradley assaulted his victims right on the exam table, with prolonged internal exams, as when, for instance, one 12-year-old came in complaining of a sore throat and pink eye. According to police reports, Bradley penetrated her for two minutes, then gave her a toy meant for a toddler. Another mother complained that Bradley conducted a four-minute internal exam on a child brought in for ADD.
Yet another mother reported her three-year-old leaving the exam to ask her, "Why did Dr. Bradley kiss my tongue?" The mother went to the police with the same question.
But the complaints and outrage went on for years before Bradley was finally arrested this past December. And perhaps the toughest, most important question that bears answering is: Why did it take so long? Especially since police had fielded enough complaints by December 2008 to ask a judge for a search warrant to raid Bradley's office.
The warrant was denied. The judge said there wasn't enough probable cause. The name of the judge isn't being made public. That's probably good for him, because a lot of the folks in Delaware would jump all over him.
During the ensuing twelve months, Bradley continued to sexually assault dozens more of his patients -- 47 of them, the indictment says. Now the finger-pointing has gone beyond the shortsightedness of an unnamed judge. Delaware press and residents want to know why the prosecutor's office didn't persist in getting into that examining room to do their own examination. An excellent article by the Wilmington (Delaware) News-Journal's Cris Barrish, who's been covering the case, raises a lot more questions.
Why didn't police go to another judge? Or ask the judge to do something else -- sign an arrest warrant, for example, which would have allowed the cops to get in there and possibly catch Bradley incriminating himself? Or ask for federal help? Or report Bradley to the state medical board for misconduct?
Prosecutors have responded that they feared notifying the medical board would have tipped off Bradley, since he'd have been informed of their action. But it might have stopped him from molesting all those little girls in 2009 (only one of his victims so far was male). We know that girls ran from him screaming and crying, that he yelled and raged at them, demanding they obey. We know that his face at such times was terrifying -- "violently enraged," according to the arrest affidavit. And we know that at least five of his victims appeared to lose consciousness or stop breathing during the attacks.
We know all this because now, 47 victims later, there's more than probable cause. There's video. When Bradley was finally arrested, video files seized from his computer replay all the scenes described in the affidavit, and more. When the Feds were finally called in, it was to help access the files.
The video came from a camera Bradley himself set up, probably to enjoy his conquests over and over again, after the fact. But here's the really stunning part: police knew that Bradley had installed a camera in his office as early as December 2008, around the time they were asking for the search warrant, and that the doctor could view the video remotely from his home.
And yet they didn't push the case further until new victims came forward in the months ahead.
Hindsight is 20/20, as they say. And it didn't help that the police investigator in the case retired in early 2009, when it was taken over by a new detective. But in this case, foresight and good old common sense should have provided a pretty clear picture.
Wednesday, the judge upped Bradley's bail from $2.9 million to $4.9 million -- cash. That's $10,000 for each count. A case review is now scheduled for May 19th, but Bradley's public defender said he doubts it will take place, since it would be based on the prosecutor preparing to offer a plea deal. That's not going to happen. Bradley's lawyer is talking insanity plea.
One of the mothers who cried at Wednesday's hearing said,"I just want to see him rot in hell."Tweet
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