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Doctor convicted of sexually assaulting patients seeks release from jail

TORONTO - An anesthesiologist convicted of sexually assaulting 21 sedated women during surgeries asked Wednesday to be released from jail while he appeals a case the Crown attorney likened to a "horror movie."

Lawyers for George Doodnaught were in the Court of Appeal for Ontario seeking bail pending appeal just one day after the doctor was sentenced to 10 years for what the judge called "reprehensible" crimes.

Doodnaught, 65, was on bail throughout his trial and complied "religiously" with those terms, lawyer Brian Greenspan said.

There's no risk Doodnaught will reoffend as his medical licence has been suspended and has broad support within his community, Greenspan argued.

"(Doodnaught) is a first offender who by everyone's account made a significant contribution to his community for many years," Greenspan said.

The father of five — three adult sons and two children under 10 — has four proposed bail sureties who are prepared to pledge a total of $1 million to ensure his release, Greenspan said.

The Crown is opposing Doodnaught's bail on the basis that it would not be in the public interest.

Though Doodnaught has no prior criminal record, his sexual assaults on 21 women show he is a repeat offender, Crown attorney Lisa Joyal said.

"This first set of convictions reveals the applicant to be a serial sexual offender," she said, calling his crimes "right out of a horror movie."

The victims were semi-conscious, cut open on an operating table and unable to offer any real resistance when a doctor, someone in a position of trust, began sexually assaulting them, Joyal recounted.

"His offences are so serious and have so shocked the conscience of the community that public trust in the administration of justice necessitates that he be detained," she said.

When Doodnaught was convicted in November, the trial judge found the doctor had relied on his three decades of operating room experience to avoid detection as he kissed women, fondled their breasts and put his penis in their mouth or hand.

Doodnaught was known as a "touchy feely" doctor, often stroking a patient's cheek or hair to soothe them during surgery, so the judge found his physical proximity during surgery didn't arouse suspicion with other staff even as he sexually assaulted the women while concealed only by a surgical drape.

Greenspan has filed a notice of appeal listing dozens of errors he says the trial judge made, including that he decided guilt while ignoring any inconsistent evidence.

"The conclusion is made...and a scenario is crafted to which no one testified," Greenspan said of the judge's findings of fact. "The conclusions reached are not supported by the evidence."

But the Crown suggested Greenspan's unusually lengthy notice of appeal rehashes arguments made at trial and amounts to a disagreement with the judge on the facts.

Most of the grounds of appeal that Greenspan puts forward are an attempt to retry the case, Joyal said.

Doodnaught's appeal is asking for his convictions to be overturned and a new trial ordered, though Greenspan estimates the actual appeal won't be heard until June or perhaps September of next year.

Appeal Court Justice Harry LaForme is expected to issue his decision late this week or early next week.

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