The News Journal (Wilmington, DE)
October 9, 2002
Doctor pleads guilty to sex assault
Two women accused Dover psychiatrist of molesting them between 1978-85
By JAMES MERRIWEATHER
Dr. Gregory N. Villabona, a Dover psychiatrist, has pleaded guilty to two charges stemming from sexual offenses that occurred as many as 24 years ago in Queen Anne’s County, Md.
Two women now in their 30s – who said they were ages 8 and 10 when the abuse began – came forward in June 2001 to say they had been molested by Villabona from 1978 to 1985, a time when he lived at Sudlersville, Md. Charges were filed in Maryland in May after a 10-month investigation.
Villabona, 54, could not be reached for comment. A receptionist for his lawyer, Thomas G. Ross of Centreville, Md., would not comment Tuesday on behalf of Ross.
During a Sept. 30 appearance in Queen Anne’s County Circuit Court in Centreville, Villabona pleaded guilty to one count of third-degree sex offense, a felony, and one count of fourth-degree sex offense, a misdemeanor. He will face a maximum of 11 years in prison when he appears Nov. 25 for sentencing by Circuit Judge John W. Sause Jr.
The investigating officer, Maryland State Police Det. Rob Penny, said from Centreville that his investigation turned up a third woman who alleged that Villabona raped her at her Queen Anne’s County home in February 1974. She said she was 12 at the time. In her case, Villabona was charged Sept. 5 with common-law rape, first-degree rape and assault, but those charges were dropped as part of a plea bargain.
Valerie Watson, director of the Delaware Division of Professional Regulation, said Villabona’s license still was active. She said, though, that regulators were aware of the Maryland case and that Gayle Franzolino, executive director of the state Board of Medical Practice, would investigate.
“We’re unable to provide any comment as to the circumstances of what happened in Maryland,” Watson said, “other than to say we’re looking into this matter because we are always concerned about the safety of Delaware residents.”
A 1996 News Journal article listed Villabona as a $190,000-a-year staff psychiatrist at Connections CSP, a Wilmington-based nonprofit organization that provides mental health services. But a spokeswoman there said he left the staff “two or three years ago.”
Villabona also was on the staff of the state-operated Sussex Mental Health Clinic in Georgetown. Donna Sharp, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Health and Social Services, said Tuesday that his services were suspended on Sept. 6 and that he has had no contact with patients since then.
Penny said that, at the time of his guilty plea, Villabona faced a count of second-degree rape, 10 counts of third-degree sex offense and two counts of fourth-degree sex offense. At a Sept. 5 preliminary hearing, Sause threw out 12 counts of assault and one count of second-degree rape.
In Maryland, Penny said, there is no statute of limitations on felony charges.