St. Paul Pioneer Press (Minnesota)
New Brighton / Therapist gets reduced sentence for sex with patient
By David Hanners
September 11, 2008

A once-prominent Twin Cities psychiatrist was sentenced to three years and five months in prison Thursday for having sex with a female patient he treated for seven years.

In a hearing as sedate as it was short, a judge told Thomas Lee Folsom he was getting six months less than state guidelines called for because he had accepted responsibility and was amenable to treatment.

“He in essence confessed openly and willfully as soon as he was contacted by police,” Hennepin County District Judge Steven Pihlaja said.

He also noted Folsom had said he wanted to spare the victim the ordeal of a trial, so he entered a guilty plea.

“He wanted to help his former patient by accepting his responsibility,” the judge said.

Folsom said nothing during sentencing and never moved from the seat next to his attorney.

Folsom, 54, of New Brighton, was chief of psychiatry at Anoka-Metro Regional Treatment Center. His career came to a halt in the spring of 2007 when he was charged with four counts of criminal sexual conduct.

In late March of last year, a woman told police she had been sexually assaulted by her psychiatrist “over a long period of time,” Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Fred Karasov wrote in an affidavit accompanying the criminal charges.

The woman said she was referred to Folsom in August 1999 for treatment of depression and an eating disorder.

“Initially, he saw her 2-3 times per week. By May of 2002, he was seeing her almost every day,” Karasov wrote. He went on to say that when the woman’s father complained about the therapy bill, which then totaled about $77,000, Folsom “agreed not to charge her for any more sessions and said he would continue working with her for free.”

The woman told police that during many sessions with Folsom, the psychiatrist would have her disrobe, and he would, too. They would then engage in sex acts, and the woman claimed they began having intercourse in 2001.

On a Web page for his practice, Folsom said his philosophy for care was to emphasize “nonmedication approaches to anxiety, depression and psychosomatic conditions.”

When Minneapolis Police Sgt. Bernie Martinson interviewed Folsom, the doctor said he began seeing the woman as a patient in 1999 and continued to see her until 2006 at his offices in Golden Valley and Minneapolis.

Folsom admitted to performing sex acts with her “hundreds of times,” Martinson claimed.

Folsom pleaded guilty in July.

The maximum penalty for third-degree criminal sexual conduct is 15 years in prison and a $30,000 fine. The judge said when mitigating factors and other considerations were factored in, state guidelines called for a sentence of between 41 and 57 months.

The recommended sentence was 47 months, but Pihlaja said he was cutting that by six months because Folsom had readily confessed when confronted by police and was amenable to treatment “without endangering the public.”

Folsom’s attorney had provided the court with “a large volume of documents” from former patients and medical professionals around the country, Pihlaja said.

“Dr. Folsom has done a number of good and positive things,” the judge said.

Pihlaja didn’t order restitution, saying he would leave that to any civil case the victim may file against Folsom.

Last month, the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice revoked Folsom’s license to practice psychiatry, a revocation required by state law because of the felony criminal sexual conduct conviction.

Thomas Folsom