August 29, 2011

Doctor jailed 3 years wants perjury charges for sex-assault accuser

8-29-2011 Michigan:

Dr. Labeed Nouri is building a new life. But he still has some unfinished business from his old one.

Nouri, 40, served more than three years behind bars, convicted of sexually assaulting a young woman who worked in his medical office.

He got out of prison after prosecutors learned in April that the woman and her boyfriend lied repeatedly on the witness stand when they said she was a virgin, a central issue in the case.

Nouri, who maintains his innocence, is now reunited with his wife and four children. He's back practicing as an orthopedic surgeon.

And he's on a mission: Nouri is trying to get his accuser charged with perjury.

"She took three years from me," he said. "I can never get them back. My youngest daughter was a baby when I went away. I never saw her first step, heard her say her first word. It's my turn for justice."

The woman, through her attorney, declined an interview. The Free Press is not naming her because she has not been charged with a crime.

Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper, who dropped felony charges against Nouri and sought his release from prison when she learned of the perjury, said she is awaiting police reports before deciding whether to file any charges against the woman.

"We moved heaven and earth to get him out immediately when we learned of this," Cooper said.

Now free, doctor learns letter in sex assault case was forged

When Labeed Nouri was sentenced to prison in April 2010, the judge read a letter signed by his accuser's priest.

"A young girl has had her youth stolen," the letter read. "I have told her to forgive Labeed Nouri. She has forgiven him, but she needs closure on this terrible ordeal. ... It is time to grant her wish of getting her justice and put Labeed Nouri in jail where he deserves to be."

Oakland County Judge Mark Goldsmith did just that, sentencing Nouri to 10 to 20 years in prison for sexual assault convictions involving a woman who was 19 when she worked in his medical office in 2007. By then, Nouri already had spent 700 days in the Oakland County Jail awaiting trial and later trying to get his conviction overturned.

Free since April 2011, after prosecutors learned the woman had lied on the stand, Nouri said he only recently learned about another lie. The letter purported to be from the Rev. Zuhair Kejbou of St. Joseph Chaldean Catholic Church in Troy wasn't written by him.

"I have never written any letter," Kejbou told the Free Press. "Anybody can forge a signature."

Kejbou said he hasn't seen the woman, who is a member of his congregation, since he learned of the forged letter and has not questioned her or her family about it.

The woman, whom the Free Press is not naming because she has not been charged with a crime, declined an interview request through her attorney.

Nouri and his attorney Mark Kriger are calling for an investigation into the forged letter. They say that letter and others written on the accuser's behalf persuaded the judge to give Nouri a long prison sentence.

"It is a fraud and an obstruction of justice," Kriger said. "The judge relied on those letters to decide on my client's sentence, and he sentenced him to prison for 10 years. It's a travesty."

After-hours assault alleged

Nouri, a Chaldean who emigrated from Iraq in 2003, had a thriving medical practice in Hazel Park and Sterling Heights, often treating other Chaldeans in the tight-knit community. The married father was vice president of the church council at St. Toma Syriac Catholic Church in Farmington Hills.

In late May 2007, one of Nouri's Chaldean patients asked whether Nouri would hire his 19-year-old daughter, who was working at a video store. Nouri and his wife, Rouwaida Nouri, who managed his medical practice, agreed to hire her for two days a week to help with filing in their Hazel Park office.

On June 22, 2007, her sixth day of work, the woman alleged Nouri assaulted her in an exam room after hours, violating her with his fingers and touching her breasts and buttocks. The woman said the attack occurred between 7:15 and 7:23 p.m. -- saying she noticed the times on clocks in the office and in her car when she left. At 7:33 p.m., she called her boyfriend in a parking lot 2 miles from the office, telling him she had been assaulted.

Records eventually obtained by the defense show Nouri was in his office from 7:06 to 7:27 p.m., continuously dictating over the phone to a medical dictation firm.

The woman's parents took her to police and to a hospital. She refused to allow a rape exam, saying she was a virgin and such an exam would "un-virginize me," records show. A later external exam at a clinic run by Haven, a nonprofit that offers support to sexual assault victims, showed a tiny tear measuring less than half a centimeter.

Nouri was charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct and two counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct for the alleged touching.

Virginity plays central role

From the beginning, defense attorneys contended the woman, who lived in Sterling Heights with her parents, fabricated the story because she had been sexually active and needed to explain why she was no longer a virgin.

Virginity is highly valued in the conservative Chaldean Catholic Church. During Nouri's trial, defense attorneys presented a gynecologist who said he was frequently asked by Chaldean families to examine daughters on the eve of their weddings to verify their virginity. Sometimes, weddings were called off if a woman was found to not be a virgin.

Nouri's accuser was asked on the witness stand about her virginity.

"In those reports at the hospital and to the police and at Haven, you went to great lengths, just as you have in this courtroom this morning, to tell everyone that on June 22, 2007, you were a virgin, is that correct?" defense attorney David Griem asked.

"Yes," she answered.

"You went out of your way to tell everyone that you were a virgin. What was your purpose for doing that?" Griem asked.

She responded, "That would be why, when I had the trauma down there -- it was due to what he did."

When asked why being a virgin was important to Chaldean women, she said, "If she is not a virgin, once she does get married, the community thinks of her as being promiscuous. They will not accept her into a man's family. They expect her to be pure."

Her boyfriend was called as a prosecution witness, and he also insisted they had never had sex.

The trial lasted five days. Nouri didn't take the stand in his own defense, and his attorneys later admitted they didn't fully explain he had the right to do so -- a point brought up in his post-conviction appeals.

Initially, the jury was hung, with jurors twice asking to review the accuser's testimony. On July 2, 2008, they found Nouri guilty.

"It was a shocking case, and a shocking conviction," said Deanna Kelley, one of his defense attorneys.

Kelley said she asked jurors after the verdict how they thought Nouri could have been dictating over the phone at the same time his accuser claimed he had been assaulting her. She said jurors told her that since they couldn't reconcile the time line, they chose to disregard it. "They said they then just decided to go by their gut," she said.

From the time the allegations were made, it would be three and a half years before Nouri and his attorneys learned the accuser and her boyfriend had lied repeatedly.

During that time, as his attorneys fought to overturn his conviction, Nouri remained incarcerated.

He was repeatedly assaulted by fellow prisoners -- his nose broken and his teeth cracked. He was hospitalized for three days and received stitches to his face, according to a federal lawsuit filed against Oakland County.

Oakland County corporation counsel Keith Lerminiaux acknowledged that Nouri had been assaulted in the jail but said he had lied about the circumstances and was the aggressor in one of the attacks. He said jail personnel obtained necessary medical treatment.

"It is our position that the county is not responsible for the assaults and therefore is not liable for them," Lerminiaux said in a written statement. He also said Nouri has not cooperated with the county in answering questions and is now seeking to dismiss the lawsuit.

Admission of lies caught on tape

In late 2010, Kriger -- Nouri's appellate attorney -- was filing motions to get the conviction overturned. One day, he heard a shocking rumor.

The accuser's boyfriend had spotted Nouri's wife and four children in the community and was suddenly overcome with guilt for lying about his sexual history with the woman.

When Kriger contacted the man, he learned he and the accuser had been sexually active for months leading up to the allegation and had since broken up. Kriger asked the man to secretly record conversations with the woman. The man met with her in March, and while recording their conversation, he told her he was worried private investigators were looking into the perjury.

The accuser, according to Kriger and prosecutors who have heard the recording, admits she lied on the stand but instructs the man to keep denying it if he's questioned.

She tells him that if authorities discover credit card receipts showing she was at local motels, she will say she lent the card to a friend. She also discusses feigning a mental breakdown so she would be hospitalized, a tactic she says she hopes would discourage a continued investigation.

Kriger took the recording to prosecutors in April. Prosecutors, noting Nouri had been convicted, offered a deal: If he pleaded no contest to a low-level misdemeanor assault -- with no probation-reporting requirements and no restrictions on obtaining his medical license -- he could be free within hours and get it expunged after five years.

It took Nouri, who was sitting in a prison cell at the Kinross Correctional Facility in the Upper Peninsula, two days to agree.

"I'm thinking, 'No, I didn't do anything,' " he recalled in a recent interview, as his wife wiped away tears. "But then I think, 'I take this and I can see my kids in a day or two.' I hadn't seen them in three years. I took it."

Meanwhile, his accuser has become a licensed practical nurse.

Her attorney, Edward Bajoka, declined to discuss the accusations of perjury and said he was unaware of the forged letter. He said his client insists she was attacked by Nouri.

"She does maintain that she was sexually assaulted," he said. ..Source.. by L.L. BRASIER

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