Houston: An Indian-American doctor from Texas, who was convicted of raping a sedated patient in a hospital, will not serve prison time and, instead, will spend 10 years of probation.
Jurors convicted Shafeeq Sheikh, 46, a former physician at the Baylor College of Medicine, of second-degree sexual assault after a trial that ended this past week. The crime is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, but the Texas jury sentenced Sheikh to 10 years of probation on Friday.
Sheikh will have to register as a sex offender.
Unlike most states and the federal government, Texas grants juries the power to set criminal punishments.
The punishment has surprised defence attorneys, disappointed law enforcement and raised concerns from a victims advocacy group, according to media reports.
The jurors had recommended the sentencing, to which visiting Senior District Judge Terry L Flenniken was required to follow by law, according to local media report.
Sheikh was working in night shift at Houston’s Ben Taub Hospital in 2013 when a woman was admitted for shortness of breath and wheezing.
She was in the hospital overnight and sedated when Sheikh came to her room several times during the night and sexually assaulted her.
The woman said she attempted to get help from a nurse, but the call button would not work.
DNA evidence collected from a rape kit matched the DNA sample of the guilty doctor’s cheek swab. But it took two years for charges to be filed against Sheikh.
Surveillance video also captured Sheikh on the floor where the woman’s room was located. He used his badge to swipe onto her floor at least 12 times that night.
“He sought her out. He chose her to prey on,” Assistant District Attorney Lauren Reeder said during Friday’s sentencing.
“You know he’s the type of man who would go in multiple times, testing the waters, seeing how far he could go and get back to his normal business after that.”
“You know he’s the kind man of who walked around for two years before he was charged with this knowing what he did,” she added.
During the trial, the doctor admitted to the sexual contact with the woman, but insisted it was consensual.
His lawyers also pleaded with the jury to show some compassion to Sheikh, his wife and children, who also suffered consequences due to his actions.
“The dreams of a man, the childhood dream to become a doctor, were shattered by his conduct. He destroyed his own dreams,” Sheikh’s lawyer Stanley Schneider said.
“What he has done to himself and his family is punishment. They are serving his sentence with him. His children are serving his sentence with him.”
The woman, now 32, said after the sentencing she wanted to move on from the incident. She told KHOU11 in 2015 that she believed there are other victims.