A longtime Quad City-area doctor was sentenced to eight years in federal prison and fined $400,000 in connection with doling out hundreds of prescriptions for non-medical reasons in exchange for sex.
In three cases, he drugged the women in his office.
Dr. David Gierlus of Illinois City practiced in Muscatine until he was criminally charged in January. He pleaded guilty in March to just one count of unlawful distribution of a controlled substance. Ninety-four other criminal counts were dropped.
At his sentencing hearing Thursday, prosecutors asked for the maximum fine of $500,000 because of a long pattern of predatory behavior by the doctor in his office.
“There are dozens and dozens of appointments with dozens of victims. Inappropriate sexual contact, using vibrators and sex tools during appointments,” said federal prosecutor Clifford Cronk.
“This is not a one or two time thing, this is multiple sexual assaults against multiple victims,” Cronk said.
He said the doctor targeted women with troubled pasts, a history of sex abuse and a taste for prescription drugs.
“Dr. Gierlus focuses his attention on patients with a mental diagnosis. He singles out patients that have a mental health issue,” Cronk told the judge.
Cronk also argued the doctor could afford the maximum fine because he and his wife have amassed $2.7 million dollar in assets.
“He got paid as a doctor by the government because most of these victims were on public assistance. He was having sex with these patients on someone else’s dime”, he said.
Defense attorney Jeff Lang tried to convince the judge that the eight-year prison sentence for the 60-year-old physician was harsh enough, and said Mrs. Gierlus is battling cancer right now.
The judge, however, said it was Dr. Gierlus’s choice to put his family through this.
“You knew these women had suffered sexual abuse as children. You groomed them,” Judge Stephanie Rose said.
The victims stories ranged from sexual advances to fondling to intercourse, and in three cases, women said the doctor injected them with a date-rape type drug in his office during an exam.
“I’m talking about drugging a woman and having sexual contact in a case that could have been prosecuted by the state of Iowa or the federal government. How much is a sexual assault worth? Because that’s what these were in my mind,” Judge Rose said before handing down her sentence.
A pre-sentence investigation report documented three victims who said they were injected with some type of drug and sexually assaulted. Two said they passed out, and one said she felt “fuzzy” and out of control, one victim told investigators a nurse came into the examining room and found her with her pants down and crying, and did nothing.
Other victims told investigators they had told nurses what was happening at Gierlus’s practice.
“I am appalled the people you worked with knew and did nothing,” the judge said to Gierlus.
Reports indicate at least one of the victims contacted the state medical board, and filed a police report with Muscatine Police as early as 2005, but no action was taken after the doctor denied everything.
The doctor told the judge he was “devastated by what’s been done to my family” and “accepted responsibility for my actions.”
His wife and three children cried as Gierlus was taken into custody immediately after sentencing. He will be transferred to a still-undetermined federal prison.