A woman has testified that a former Eisenhower Medical Center nursing aide sexually assaulted her while she was staying overnight at the Rancho Mirage hospital, while the defendant’s attorney claimed that the woman was “a con artist” who orchestrated the incident to extort money from the hospital in an ongoing lawsuit.
Testimony began Tuesday in the trial for Gil Ernesto Lopez, 50, of Cathedral City, who is accused of sexually assaulting the woman in August 2015, while she was on her third consecutive night of inpatient care at the hospital for complications following gall bladder surgery.
The woman, identified in court as Jane Doe, testified that she was asleep when Lopez began fluffing the pillows beneath her legs.
She testified that Lopez then moved his hand onto her leg and sexually assaulted her while she pleaded with him to stop. Though she testified that she tried to push him away, prescribed morphine left her “paralyzed,” with “no power” to resist the assault, she said.
He allegedly became “spooked” midway through the assault and retreated to a bathroom before returning and allegedly assaulting her again.
Lopez was brought in for questioning the following month and denied any sexual contact with the victim, according to Deputy District Attorney Deana Bohenek.
However, in a second interview, Lopez allegedly said he noticed the woman’s oxygen monitor was not working and put his hand in hers to try and warm her hand. He said she then moved his hand toward her midsection in a way that Lopez misconstrued as a consensual act.
Lopez said he did not bring up the incident during his first interview because he was too embarrassed to tell the truth, according to Bohenek.
He was arrested in January 2016 and pleaded not guilty to charges of forcible sexual penetration, sexual penetration with a foreign object, and sexual battery for the purpose of sexual arousal.
Defense attorney Bosky Kathuria called his client “an innocent man,” while claiming that Doe had invented the incident in a “scheme” to obtain a seven-figure sum in punitive damages from the hospital. Last year, the victim filed a lawsuit against the hospital and Lopez, alleging that Eisenhower was negligent in hiring and retaining him after the incident.
Doe did not scream or cry out when the alleged assault occurred, nor did she use the “call button” she had on hand to alert hospital staff that something was wrong, which Kathuria said indicated the assault may have never happened.
She also did not mention the incident through the next day when her daughter came to visit her, Kathuria said. Two days after the alleged assault, she testified that she reported it to a friend of hers who worked at the hospital.
Doe testified Tuesday that she was “sick” and “ashamed” of herself for not screaming out during the alleged assault, and didn’t call for help because she “didn’t know what else to do,” in addition to being affected by the morphine.
Kathuria also emphasized Doe’s criminal history, including prior convictions for forgery, theft, welfare fraud and more, and described her as “a con artist whose ultimate objective was to sue Eisenhower hospital for a tidy sum of money.”
The ongoing lawsuit states that Eisenhower should have been aware that Lopez was “unfit” to be an employee at the hospital, “particularly placed alone with female patients.”
The victim had to return to the hospital in November for follow-up treatment and was “horrified” to discover that Lopez still worked at the hospital during the ongoing sheriff’s investigation, and was assigned to the same floor where she was staying. According to the lawsuit, she immediately checked out of the hospital against the advice of hospital officials, who said Lopez resigned from the hospital last year.
Lopez, who remains out of custody on $55,000 bail, has no prior felony convictions in Riverside County, according to court records.
–City News Service
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