By Joe Kuhn
Kristina Wodicka has been found not guilty of the abuse charges leveled against her by a former patient.
During a lengthy trial last month the doctor faced eight counts of sexual abuse in the third degree and one count each of forceful touching and endangering a child. Her alleged victim was a teenage girl who originally sought treatment from the chiropractor and N.E.T. therapist for “body image issues.”
Wodicka was arrested in the summer of 2016 after one of her former patients, whose name has been withheld, came forward with allegations of sexual abuse that supposedly occurred while she was being treated in the fall of 2014. The accuser had claimed that the abuse continued and escalated over a 6-month period, culminating in her attempted suicide after her final visit to the office in February 2015.
Mahmoud Rabah, Wodicka’s attorney, focused his defense on the mental state of the accuser, who was being treated for a number of mental health problems at time of her visits. Rabah was able to establish that the patient, according to her mother’s testimony, was intermittently taking Klonopin, a sedative with a range of potential side effects that include drowsiness and suicidal tendencies, during the months she was being treated by Wodicka. Rabah argued that many if not all of the symptoms of the alleged abuse were side effects of the teenager’s inconsistent use of the drug; he was also quick to point out major inconstancies between the mother’s testimony and her daughters. While her mother described the alleged victim as suffering night terrors, incontinence, and insomnia, the girl denied exhibiting any such behavior.
Prosecutor Stephanie Schera portrayed Wodicka as a calculating manipulator who gradually “groomed” the girl for abuse. When Wodicka admitted to performing a haiedel hernia exam on her patient, Schera repeatedly reminded the jury that the patient had not initially come to Wodicka’s office with complaints of any physical aliment. She portrayed the exam as an excuse for touching the patient and a stepping stone to further abuse.
The prosecutions also seized on the fact that Wodicka had given her patient CBD oil, a product that contains THC and is not intended for use by minors.
Schera argued that the doctor was deliberately trying to disorient her patient and that the girls deteriorating mental condition could be linked to the substance. Expert medical witness called by the defense established that CBD oil is non psychoactive and could not significantly alter a person’s behavior.
Both parties focused on the location of the supposed abuse as a key piece of their argument. Several witness for the defense stated that it would have been extremely difficult for the descried abuse to go unnoticed in their office. Both of Wodicka’s medical assistants, and her ex-husband Dr. Kenneth Zat’s, testified that it was common-place for medical assistants to walk into the exam rooms while the doctor was seeing a patient. Dr. Zat’s, who shared the office with Wodicka also testified “that the walls were paper thin” and that he nor any of the other staff ever heard anything that would lead them to believe physical abuse was occurring in the office.
The prosecution flipped this logic on its head by arguing that a noisy office would be beneficial to a potential abuser as it would be difficult to hear anything going on. Detective James Coyle, the officer in charge of the investigation, admitted during testimony that he did not perform a thorough investigation of the office, deeming it “unnecessary.”
Wodicka chiropractic office remains in operation.