WEST CHESTER >> A southern Chester County dentist who had been accused of sexually assaulting a woman who had come to his New Garden office for a job interview pleaded guilty on Wednesday to reduced charges and was given probation as part of a plea agreement.
The dentist, Dr. Maaen Aboafch, said little during the brief proceeding in Common Pleas Court other than to agree that what had occurred with the woman was a matter of alarm that “served no legitimate purpose,” as is specified in the state Crimes Code defining disorderly conduct.
“We are not admitting to the sexual contact (charged), or anything like that,” said Aboafch’s attorney, Daniel Bush of the West Chester law firm of Lamb McErlane, in discussing the case with Judge Anthony Sarcione. “Since day one, we have been willing to take this case to trial.”
But Bush acknowledged that the guilty plea his client, who is also known as Dr. Michael Afash, entered, to the summary charge of disorderly conduct, was a “compromise” between what Aboafch would contend happened and what the woman had alleged in her complaint to police. “This is a way to wrap up the case,” Bush said.
Deputy District Attorney Thomas Ost-Prisco, who prosecuted Aboafch, told Sarcione that he had advised both the woman and the police officers who brought the charges what Wednesday’s resolution of the case would entail. Although there was some expectation that the case could go forward with the original charges of indecent assault and harassment, Ost-Prisco said that both eventually accepted the decision to offer Aboafch the summary plea.
“They understand the strength and weaknesses of the case,” Ost-Prisco said.”(The alleged victim) was okay with the Commonwealth allowing the defendant to plead guilty (to summary disorderly conduct.)”
Neither the woman nor New Garden police, who filed the charges against Aboafch, were present in Sarcione’s courtroom on Wednesday.
The judge said he was somewhat reluctant to accept the plea, which includes 90 days of supervised probation, a $300 fine, and a required mental health evaluation. “But as long as the young lady is okay with this, I am sure the Commonwealth has its reasons” for resolving the case without a misdemeanor or felony conviction.
According to the criminal complaint filed against Aboafch, the woman, who lives in Wilmington, Del., came to his office on Sept. 6 for a job interview she had scheduled earlier. She said there was no one else in the office, which is located in New Garden, during the interview, which lasted about two hours.
The woman said Aboafch focused strictly on dentistry for the first portion of the interview, in which the pair moved from room to room. But when the woman submitted to an examination of a damaged filling, things changed.
She told Deputy Chief Michael King, who led the investigation, that Aboafch began rubbing her shoulders, then began touching her breasts, both under her clothes and on top of them. Although she told the dentist to stop, he continued to touch and kiss her.
When she tried to leave the office, after again saying that Aboafch should stop and that he was making her uncomfortable, he hugged her tightly instead of shaking her hand. When she attempted to push away, he tried to kiss her again, saying she was “so beautiful that he couldn’t have her working for him because he would be distracted.” He asked her to return the following day, however, for a working interview.
She reported the incident to officers from the Southern Chester County regional Police Department on Sept. 7.
King wrote that he interview Aboafch at the police station on Oct. 4, and that the dentist acknowledged that he had hugged the woman before she left, but contended that he had been getting “mixed signals” from the woman, whose name is being withheld by the Daily Local News because of the nature of the charges.
Ost-Prisco told Sarcione that among the considerations that went into the decision to withdraw the more serious charges against Aboafch were that there were no witnesses to corroborate the woman’s story, making it a she-said, he-said incident. He also noted that Aboafch had no previous criminal history, but that part of the plea agreement is that the prosecution would oppose any attempt to have the record of the arrest and disposition of the case expunged in the future.
Bush said that Aboafch, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Dentistry, had been suspended from practice for six months by the state following his arrest. The license was reinstated a month ago, but Bush said he did not know what future actions that state might take because of the plea.
“Dr. Afash always has steadfastly denied ever inappropriately touching this woman, or any of her allegations,” Bush said after the proceeding. “We were prepared to prove his innocence at trial, and today’s plea to a summary offense of disorderly conduct does nothing to contradict that. He didn’t do the things that this woman said he did, and it is a shame that his professional life has been affected by these allegations.”
To contact staff writer Michael P. Rellahan call 610-696-1544.