Austin American Statesman
Abuse trial of state psychiatrist Dr. Charles Fischer draws to a close
By Ryan Autullo
November 13, 2016
Dr. Charles Fischer’s sexual abuse trial is coming to an end after three full weeks of evidence about the child psychiatrist.
Both sides will give closing arguments on Monday or Tuesday, recapping testimony from the seven male accusers who say they were assaulted by Fischer, a former doctor at Austin State Hospital. It is unknown if Fischer will testify. On Thursday, he is due back in court for an unrelated public lewdness arrest in 2013 when he was accused of having sex in a wooded area near the Zilker Clubhouse.
The jury in Fischer’s sex assault case hasn’t heard about that charge.
Last week, Fischer’s defense presented a host of witnesses to speak on his behalf, including a former patient who said he never felt uncomfortable around the doctor. A social worker at Austin State Hospital called Fischer her friend and said he was a role model for young boys at the hospital. Another hospital employee said he was falsely accused of sexual abuse by one of Fischer’s accusers. And yet another employee said Fischer “was professional, self-contained, private and to himself.”
A psychologist hired by the defense raised the possibility that because of the accusers’ mental illnesses they might have been confused and given false statements.
Dr. Matthew Ferrara said Fischer’s six patient accusers were susceptible to auditory and visual hallucinations. One of them, he said, showed signs of psychosis 10 days before he made an outcry against Fischer. Another patient hadn’t slept for four days before being admitted to Austin State Hospital, Ferrara said, citing hospital records.
Speaking generally about mental illnesses, Ferrara said the severely afflicted can “remember few things and misremember more things” and that “they see things on TV and think it happened to them.”
All of the accusers are adults but were teenagers when they say the abuse occurred. Some of them say Fischer engaged in sexual activity with them in his office and took precautions such as locking the door to hide what they were doing. Others say they saw Fischer masturbate to pornography on his computer. An investigator who analyzed Fischer’s computer said he didn’t find the presence of pornography.
Court documents show there are 10 patient accusers. Six testified; four did not. There was also a nonpatient accuser from Fischer’s youth.