Fugitive Dentist Sentenced in Rape Case

By Ernesto Londoño
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 15, 2007

Minutes before he was sentenced yesterday for raping a 15-year-old patient he had drugged with laughing gas, former Bethesda dentist David E. Fuster, who lived as a fugitive in Mexico for four years, told a packed courtroom that he was guilty not of rape but of bad judgment.

"I'm sorry for any inappropriate behavior," the 51-year-old said, capping a sometimes rambling account of his conduct toward the girl. "I can't be sorry for a rape I did not commit."

Circuit Court Judge D. Warren Donohue, who presided over Fuster's trial in May 2003, imposed a term of 20 years in prison. "Anyone who attacks one of our children deserves a very serious punishment," said Donohue, who returned from retirement to sentence Fuster.

The victim, a petite Bolivian woman who lives in Europe, was too shaken to read a statement she wrote, prosecutors said. She stood in the well of the Rockville courtroom facing Fuster as a court interpreter read it.

"I have lost too much of my youth, my happiness," wrote the woman, now 21. "What did I do to deserve this?"

Fuster, a Peruvian immigrant who came to the United States when he was 12, had a successful practice in the 8300 block of Old Georgetown Road.

According to prosecutors, on Oct. 10, 2001, he examined the victim, the niece of a regular patient. The aunt left the office because the procedure took longer than anticipated, and Fuster agreed to give the girl a ride later.

Fuster, who said the teenager had an abscess, gave her nitrous oxide -- laughing gas -- and led her to a couch in the lower level of his office, where he raped her, according to police. He then drove her to a Chipotle restaurant on Rockville Pike, where the two ate, and later dropped her off at a Metro station.

Fuster said yesterday that the medical procedure was necessary and that the delays had been justified. He disputed that the teenager was groggy when she got up from the dental chair.

"When she left the chair, she was lucid, conscious," said Fuster, whose lawyer said later that he denies having had even consensual sex with the girl.

But the dentist didn't explain why police found traces of the girl's bodily fluids on the dentist's couch and on a condom in his office. He also didn't address a phone conversation with the teenager, which police recorded, in which he told her, "This happened between you and me and no one else."

Fuster's wife, Roxana, sat in the front row of the courtroom, across the aisle from the father of the victim. Fuster's son David, 18, was one of dozens of members of the Fuster family and friends at the hearing.

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