Frederick Doctor Charged With Fondling

By Fredrick Kunkle
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 19, 2006

Back in the days when Middletown was little more than a bank and a barbershop surrounded by dairy farms, Michael S. Rudman began building a reputation as a country doctor with a folksy style.

After a medical mission to Africa about six years ago, Rudman opened a nonprofit clinic in Frederick County to treat indigent people with hepatitis C and became a nationally recognized expert on the blood-borne disease.

But some of his female patients now say they saw a more unpleasant side of his work. In recent weeks, 11 women have come forward to accuse the doctor of sexually molesting them during examinations in his office, according to criminal charges filed in Frederick County Circuit Court and an order suspending his license filed by the Maryland Board of Physicians in Baltimore this month.

Many of those who have long known and trusted Rudman are astounded.

"To tell you the truth, I think most people are shocked," said Kenneth L. Gamache of Middletown. "Believe me, I'm pretty devastated."

Gamache, 52, who said he is awaiting a liver transplant because of the damage caused by hepatitis C, had been a patient of Rudman's for 23 years. He watched Rudman, who is married and has adult children, build up his family practice in Middletown and the nonprofit clinic in downtown Frederick.

"He's done a lot for the community. The only thing I can hope is it's not true. It's sad. It's mind-boggling," Gamache said.

Rudman, 57, allegedly fondled the women under the guise of giving them examinations or massages in a dimly lit room with no one else present. He also made suggestive remarks, asked them to disrobe and pose in sexually provocative stances and pushed his body against them while he was sexually aroused, the documents say.

One woman told authorities that when she was 13, she went to Rudman to see about a sore throat, and he fondled a breast during the exam, the medical board order says. Another said she went to the doctor after she was hit in the mouth with a softball, splitting her lip, and the doctor pressed his body against her in a sexual way while suturing the wound, the order says.

The first allegation came in August, when a 50-year-old Middletown woman who suffers from a chronic pain disorder known as fibromyalgia told the Maryland Board of Physicians that Rudman fondled her genitals while ostensibly giving her a massage, court documents say. On another occasion, the woman said she heard a "zipper noise" and told authorities she believed Rudman had masturbated during a massage, the order says.

In late December, the Frederick County Sheriff's Office filed charges on three counts of second-degree sexual assault and three counts of fourth-degree sex offense, based on the Middletown woman's claims. Authorities also filed single counts of second-degree assault and fourth-degree sex offense, based on the claims of a 41-year-old Myersville woman who said Rudman pressed himself against her suggestively during an exam, court documents say. The most serious charges carry maximum penalties of 10 years in prison.

After the media carried reports of Rudman's arrest, nine more women came forward with allegations going back to the late 1970s, the medical board order says. On Feb. 9, the board suspended Rudman's license and described the alleged misconduct in a 20-page order that identifies the women only by initials.

The Washington Post generally does not name the alleged victims of sex crimes.

Frederick County State's Attorney Scott L. Rolle said authorities are investigating the allegations of the additional nine women to determine whether more charges should be filed.

Rudman, who is free on $45,000 bond, lives in a two-story, painted brick home in Foxfield, a development so new its streets are streaked with mud from construction vehicles. Answering the door Thursday in a polo shirt, khakis and bare feet, he referred all questions to attorney Alan L. Winik.

Winik, who is representing Rudman in the criminal case, declined to comment. Attorney Conrad Varner, who is handling the license suspension, could not be reached for comment.

Michael R. Behre, the only physician attending patients Thursday at the Middletown Valley Family Medical Center, declined to comment. Efforts to reach the other three physicians in the group practice were unsuccessful.

No one would talk at the Frederick County Hepatitis Clinic, either. Repeated calls to executive director Constance Callahan were not returned.

At the medical center, Rudman was known for running behind in his schedule because he liked chatting with patients about gardening, riding motorcycles or, recently, his little dog.

Mark A. Lewis started seeing Rudman when only a few farms dotted the valley of what is now a sprawling bedroom community.

"He's a country doctor," said Lewis, 80, of Myersville. "We'd get to talking about his peach trees, his fruit trees. A lot of times, he would give a lot of his fruits and vegetables to his patients."

In 2000, Rudman founded the Frederick County Hepatitis Clinic. He won praise for his public advocacy, served on the State Advisory Council on Hepatitis C and testified before Congress about the disease in 2004.

"He fought real hard to get medication for people who couldn't afford it," Gamache said. He said Rudman also worked to remove the stigma from the viral disease. "I think he was trying to get the doctors to have a different perspective. It was: 'Treat them as human beings.' I was always thankful for that."

Another patient, Laurie L. Wolfe, founder of the Hope for Hepatitis C Foundation in Frederick, said Rudman "poured his heart and soul into it."

© 2006 The Washington Post Company