The Boston Globe
October 27, 1992
Prosecution mulled in ’70s abuse claims
By Tom Coakley
In the wake of decades-old sexual assault charges filed against James Porter in Bristol County, Salem and Peabody police are investigating a former Massachusetts psychiatrist to determine if he can be prosecuted for allegedly molesting at least two young female patients in the 1970s.
The women making the charges against the psychiatrist, Tobias Friedman, hope to take advantage of the same exception to the state statute of limitations that allowed prosecutors to gain indictments of Porter in September for allegedly molesting children while he was a priest in Massachusetts in the 1960s.
The exception stops the clock on the six-year statute of limitations for most felonies if the person eventually accused of a crime has left the state, as Porter did.
Friedman, 66, left Massachusetts in 1976 for a staff psychiatrist’s job at a Shreveport, La., veterans hospital.
Salem Police Detective James Gauthier confirmed last week that he is examining two cases involving Friedman, and Peabody Police Capt. Stephen Begley said the sexual assaults unit there also is looking into a case involving Friedman.
Friedman, who is retired and lives in Shreveport, could not be reached for comment. His phone number is unlisted, and he did not respond to letters sent to him by the Globe.
In a 1989 case before the state Board of Registration in Medicine, however, he denied allegations of sexual misconduct, but gave up his medical licenses in Massachusetts and Louisiana.
Gauthier said the Salem investigation began several weeks ago when three women came forward alleging they were molested as children or teen-agers by Friedman.
The women also contacted Peabody police, Begley said.
“We didn’t know how to do this,” said Joyce Bowen, 40, of Salem, who is leading the attempt to have Friedman prosecuted.
“It wasn’t until the Porter case came out that people knew the statute of limitations was frozen,” she said. “Thank God for the Porter case.”
Using the exception might allow prosecutors to charge Friedman with alleged assaults committed after October 1970 – six years before his departure, Gauthier said.
Based in Boston in the late 1960s and 1970s, Friedman, who was a child psychiatrist, treated patients on the North Shore through an affiliation with the Salem and Peabody public school systems and the North Shore Guidance Center in Salem, according to the alleged victims and legal documents.
Friedman relinquished his licenses in 1989 after four women – including Bowen – brought sexual misconduct charges against him to the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine.
At the time, he was chief psychiatrist at Overton Brooks Veterans Administration Medical Center in Shreveport, and affiliated with the Louisiana State University School of Medicine.
An Overton Brooks spokesman said last week that Friedman had a clean record at the VA facility, and colleagues at the medical school wrote letters of support for him to the Board of Registration in 1989.
Gauthier said he has discussed the cases with William Fallon, the Salem County assistant district attorney who heads the office’s sexual assault unit.
Fallon would not comment on the cases. Speaking hypothetically, however, he said he would pursue any case he felt was strong enough and that could fit within the exception to the statute of limitations.
In attempting to prosecute Friedman, authorities would confront some of the same problems that prosecutors in Bristol County face with the Porter case. They must establish that the cases meet the statute of limitations, survive a probable defense challenge to the exception, and build a factual case from alleged victims’ memories of old, and often suppressed, events.
Attorneys in the Porter case expect the statute of limitations exception issue to be appealed before the state Supreme Judicial Court.
Bowen alleges that Friedman exposed himself with the intention of forcing her to have oral sex during a 1968 session in Salem, when she was 16.
Her allegations cannot be prosecuted, according to authorities, because the alleged attack took place too long before Friedman’s departure.
Yet she has taken a leadership role in pushing for prosecution, urging alleged victims on, filing with the Board of Registration, and bringing her story to the news media and to authorities.
Tina Scolia, 32, of Salem, told authorities that she went to Friedman in April 1970, when she was 10, to deal with problems she had stemming from the death of her father. Friedman allegedly had oral sex with her and raped her in his Salem office while her mother sat in the waiting room, said Scolia, who also offered evidence to the Board of Registration in 1989.
Gauthier said Scolia’s allegations also will not fall within the statute of limitations, however, unless he can show that Friedman left Massachusetts before April 1976.
Starr OBrien of Gloucester said she went to Friedman in the spring or fall of 1974 on a referral from the Peabody school system, and alleges he tried to force her to have oral sex during one session.
OBrien’s allegations fall within the statute of limitations but must be corroborated, Gauthier said. He said he has asked her to find whatever documents she can relating to the session with Friedman, and to try to locate anyone who may have been told about the incident.
OBrien said she told her late stepmother about the alleged molestation right after it happened, and her stepmother immediately told two Peabody teachers. But OBrien cannot recall the names of the teachers.
Bowen said a fourth woman, who now lives in Florida, was allegedly sexually molested by Friedman at his Boston home in 1971 when she was 11. Because that woman, who also filed accusations in 1989, was picked up and dropped off by Friedman in Peabody, police in that city also are investigating those allegations, Begley said.
Bowen, Scolia and OBrien all say they have suffered emotional harm from their experiences with Friedman.
Scolia said she tried to kill herself twice, and is terrified of therapists. OBrien said she has been so distraught that she had to give up two children to adoption.
“When this happens to you as a child, you always feel like it’s your fault and you carry that attitude,” said Bowen. “It made me feel like I was a troublemaker.”