Freefall

The lawsuits against a plastic surgeon are at 22 and counting.

IT SEEMED UNLIKELY that life could get worse for Dr. Gregory Johnson, the former Kirkland plastic surgeon. Accused earlier this year of criminal rape and assault of several of his patients—he twice escaped the former charge, but was convicted of the latter—and facing 15 civil lawsuits for alleged malpractice, he ended up doing a five-month stint in jail, lost his medical license, and watched the collapse of his once-lucrative medical practice at Carillon Point. He also went through a divorce.

But it has gotten worse indeed: The stack of civil lawsuits against the 47-year-old physician has now climbed to 22 separate cases, including a new one in which another former patient claims she was raped by Johnson (who denies all allegations). Similarly, 15 former patients and Johnson's former office manager have now told the state Medical Quality Assurance Commission they were either medically mistreated and/or sexually attacked, sometimes while under anesthesia. Most were Johnson's breast-surgery patients from April 1993 to March 1997—from the time he opened his Eastside office to the day he was arrested for rape.

Johnson also is set to go to trial next week for domestic violence following his September arrest for allegedly assaulting his Seattle girlfriend. City prosecutors say Johnson threw the woman against a wall and yanked her around by her hair. Police say Johnson at first refused to identify himself to officers other than to say he was "a well-known public figure."

Additionally, Johnson was recently found guilty of violating his parole by consuming alcohol and possibly cocaine, and was sentenced to 30 days in jail.

Finally, Johnson now faces a possible new charge of attempting to illegally obtain a gun. Police confirm they are looking into a claim that Johnson recently sought to purchase a handgun, in violation of the conditions of his parole for the felony assault conviction.

Ex-patients are most worried about the gun allegation, which they view as a signal that the once-trusted doctor could turn violent and unpredictable. "God forbid he get a gun in his hands," says Cheri Walton, who is suing Johnson for malpractice.

COURT RECORDS SHOW that Johnson has a serious alcoholism problem that led to blackouts (see "The Man Who Remade Women," SW, 2/5/98). After the domestic violence arrest, the doctor admitted to drinking and twice tested positive for cocaine (a third test came back negative, leaving the results in dispute). He now acknowledges his addiction problem and has been undergoing treatment in a Texas recovery center for the past two months.

Walton and Kathy Weeks, another ex-patient and civil claimant, are upset that parole and court officials allowed Johnson to leave the state "knowing there was a pending gun issue [and] that this man has potentially committed a felony," says Walton. The women say they have been unable to question Johnson in connection with their lawsuits. "Bring him back, put him in treatment [here]," says Weeks, "so he is able to be accountable for these things."

 
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