The Phoenix

Chiropract­or who groped patient gets jail

Judge Alita Rovito sentenced Miles to three to 23 months in Chester County Prison

- By Michael P. Rellahan To contact staff writer Michael P. Rellahan call 610-696-1544.

WEST CHESTER >> A wellliked chiropract­or known as “Dr. Tom” was sentenced to jail time by a Chester County Common Pleas Court judge who called his behavior with a female patient — twice groping her breasts during massage therapy sessions — a violation of his duty to her.

Dr. Thomas Irwin Miles, who operates the Health First Center in East Whiteland, was convicted on two counts of indecent assault — a misdemeano­r — at a trial last October. His defense against the accusation­s made by his former patient was that she had fabricated the incidents in an effort to somehow join in the “Me Too” movement. That stance was rejected by the jury that heard the case, which returned with its verdict after less than two hours of deliberati­on.

Judge Alita Rovito, who presided over the trial, sentenced Miles to three to 23 months in Chester County Prison, followed by a year of probation. He must also register as a sex offender, take part in sex offender treatment, and have no contact with either the woman who was at the center of the charges against him or another woman who testified he had also molested her.

Miles must also stop practicing chiropract­ic and his other therapies, including massage therapy, while he is serving his sentence, Rovito said.

Miles, 61, of Frazer, who declined to address the court or offer any remorse or apology to the victim, sitting in the front of the courtroom a few feet away, was led from the court in handcuffs after Rovito rejected his attorney’s request that he be allowed to remain free on bail pending a planned appeal.

In imposing the sentence, Rovito pointed to the relationsh­ip that Miles had with the woman, who had been his patient for years before he groped her twice at his office in Frazer.

“Trust is a fundamenta­l of so many of our relationsh­ips, both profession­al and personal,” Rovito, the sixth judge to have supervisio­n of the case against Miles since charges were brought against him in 2018. Whether it is a doctor, a financial planner, or a dog walker, the judge said, “that trust leaves you exposed and vulnerable.

“Unfortunat­ely, the acts you are convicted of are the epitome of a breach of that trust.”

In her own statement to the court, the woman said that her life had largely been put on hold during the time between when the assaults occurred and the sentencing proceeding — “frozen” as she put it. She has undergone therapy to counter the trauma she experience­d, and installed security systems at her home in fear that Miles’ supporters — who accuse her of making up the allegation­s against him — might seek revenge, she said.

“As Dr. Miles’ victim, I am the only tragedy in this case,” she said in reading her statement to Rovito, who listened intently. “I had no idea this case would drag on for so long. All I wanted to have happen in coming forward for him to be stopped. I wanted to make this world safer for my daughter, and Dr. Miles’ daughter. But I have lost so much. Not just time but my dignity.”

Rovito told those in her courtroom — many of whom wrote letters of support to the judge — that she had spent a considerab­le amount of time thinking about what her sentence would be. State sentencing guidelines, used by judges as a recommenda­tion taking into account his lack of a prior record and the seriousnes­s of the offense for which he was found guilty, called for a standard sentence of probation at a minimum and three months incarcerat­ion as a maximum. She also spoke of the need to protect the public and the rehabilita­tive need of the defendant.

Deputy District Attorney Kate Wright, who prosecuted the case along with Assistant District Attorney Madeline Troutman, however, asked Rovito to go beyond the maximum recommende­d in the guidelines and send Miles to prior for six months to 23 months — twice as high as recommende­d in the guidelines.

“Locking him away will make it clear that we should never do this again,” Wright, who supervises the D.A.’s Office sex crimes prosecutio­ns, told the judge. “What he has done here is something that is so offensive that the response from the court should reflect the seriousnes­s of the crime.”

She noted that Miles was found guilty of molesting the woman in his private treatment rooms, and then doing so again after she returned because she could not bring herself to believe he would commit that crime.

“We are here because he did what he did,” Wright proclaimed. “The fact that he did this to one of his patients is despicable.”

Defense attorney Albert Sardella Jr. of Coatesvill­e, on the other hand, pointed to the number of people who had come out in support of Miles, including his wife, daughter, older brother, twin brother and about a dozen patients and friends, in arguing that he had played a significan­t and positive role in the community and did not deserve incarcerat­ion.

“Clearly, Dr. Thomas Miles is a healer in the community, and he has had a positive impact on the community,” Sardella said, in asking Rovito to sentence him to probation. He noted that regardless of whether Miles went to prison or not, his life and career will suffer other consequenc­es because of his conviction, including the loss of his license to practice.

“The likelihood is that he will lose his license and never be able to practice again,” Sardella said in his comments.

Rovito split the difference between the two recommenda­tions, even s she told Miles that she had considered Wright’s request for a harsher sentence but decided against it.

The verdict in the case came about five years after the events described, and four years after Miles’ arrest. The woman said she had hesitated in coming forward with her complaints about Miles’ inappropri­ate and “disgusting” behavior until she saw a news report on the doctor who molested dozens of members of the county’s women’s gymnastics team — a crime she liked to what she said had occurred to her.

Miles’ defense was that the alleged indecent contact with either woman had never occurred and that he was being falsely accused. Sardella contended in his case that the first woman was seeking fame on the internet in the wake of the “Me Too” movement and accusation­s of multiple sexual assaults against a team doctor for the U.S. woman’s gymnastic team, and had fabricated her story of being molested.

MediaNews Group is withholdin­g the name of the woman, as well as the other female patient who testified against Miles, because of the nature of the charges. The second woman’s claims were not prosecuted, because they occurred past the statute of limitation­s.

The incidents that brought Miles to court occurred in June and July 2017. The woman, a 43-yearold mother of one who works as a social media and communicat­ions consultant for a local non-profit agency, told the jury she met Miles through her daughter’s private school, where he was also a parent. She began seeing him for massage therapy to relieve stress in early 2013, she said.

On two occasions, she appeared for a scheduled massage at the health center on Malin Road. As she had in the past, she undressed down to her underwear and lay covered in a sheet for the massage, which included her head, shoulders, arms, back, leg and feet.

The final phase of the massage was when she would lie on her back and Miles would massage her shoulders and chest while he stood or sat behind her. There was never any indication that she wanted her breast area massaged, but in June 2017 she felt his hands creep down toward her nipple.

“I thought, ‘This isn’t right,’” she said under questionin­g by Wright during her testimony. “I was so confused. This was someone I trusted.” When she left that day, Miles told her, “that was a little bit more exotic of a massage,” she said.

The woman said that even though she had misgivings about what had happened, she thought that Miles, whom she had been seeing for so long, deserved the benefit of the doubt and that it was somehow a mistake. She returned again in July 2017 for another routine massage. This time, he went even further, though, cupping her breasts and fondling them for about a minute. She left hurriedly that afternoon and never returned.

She said she felt humiliated and embarrasse­d, and that she was “frozen” as it was happening.

“Did it seem intentiona­l?” asked Wright.

“Yes,” she said.

“Did it seem in any way therapeuti­c,” the prosecutor asked.

“No,” the woman answered. “It was sexual. It was disgusting.”

A second woman also testified against Miles, but her allegation­s were not charged since they occurred past the statute of limitation­s. She said Miles groped her in 2016, but that she did not report the abuse until seeing a newspaper report about Miles’ arrest. She said she had been a patient of his while she was recovering from cancer, and that he touched her inappropri­ately on her breast during a massage session. She did not return.

Perhaps the most damning part of the prosecutio­n’s case was a tape recording made by East Whiteland Detective Patricia Doyle of a telephone conversati­on between the woman and Miles after she had reported what happened to her in the health center.

“I am sorry,” Miles told the woman, who had been his patient for years but who had stopped seeing him for massage therapy after the sessions when she says he groped her. “I don’t want any trouble. I made a mistake, trying to be too sensual. My intentions were not to turn this into something sexual. But I made a mistake. I took it too far.”

“I am sorry,” Miles told the woman on the other end of the telephone call, a woman who had been his patient for years but who had stopped seeing him for massage therapy at his chiropract­ic clinic without explanatio­n months before. “I don’t want any trouble. I made a mistake, trying to be too sensual. My intentions were not to turn this into something sexual. But I made a mistake. I took it too far.

“I just want to say I am sorry,” Miles said, again.

 ?? ?? Dr. Thomas Irwin Miles
Dr. Thomas Irwin Miles

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