- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 10, 2003

On May 7, Bethesda dentist David Fuster was convicted in Montgomery County of raping a teen-age patient in his office. Now he’s free to rape again, because of a plea agreement.

The facts of the case are as follows: In October 2001, Fuster sedated a 15-year-old girl with nitrous oxide (laughing gas) and raped her on a couch in his basement office. Fuster is scheduled to be sentenced July 10. Had the system been working properly, Fuster would have been taken into custody immediately upon conviction. That didn’t happen. So he did what you might expect any sexual predator facing 55 years in the slammer would do: He apparently packed his wife and five children into the family van and skipped town. In addition to forfeiting the $100,000 bond, Fuster also lost his Damascus home, which court authorities have put on the market. It is believed to be worth $1.6 million, State’s Attorney Douglas Gansler told The Washington Times.

On May 8, just one day after his conviction, Fuster’s five children were pulled out of the Montgomery County Public Schools (Superintendent Jerry Weast, where were your truancy officers?). Fuster’s attorneys only learned he had fled after failing to reach him to make arrangements to fit him with an electronic monitoring bracelet so he could remain free pending sentencing. After police subsequently found packed boxes in Fuster’s home, Circuit Court Judge Warren Donohue issued a bench warrant on May 20 for the dentist’s arrest. In addition to the 15-year-old, at least four other teen-age girls have come forward with similar allegations against him.

Why was Fuster allowed to remain free after his conviction? Part of the reason was that his defense attorneys managed to persuade the court that it would be harmful to his family to have its largest breadwinner (even if he is a rapist) sitting in jail for two months instead of continuing his dental practice. But the most critical factor, Mr. Gansler candidly told us, was a plea agreement that he was reluctantly forced to agree to with Fuster’s lead attorney, Barry Helfand. Critical physical evidence proving Fuster committed the rape was late in coming back from the crime lab. The county was faced with the choice of not having critical evidence available or delaying Fuster’s trial beyond the 180-day limit provided for by the state’s speedy-trial law. So, Mr. Gansler was forced to make a deal (one he admits he wasn’t happy about) in order to get Mr. Helfand to waive the speedy-trial requirement. Part of that agreement allowed Fuster to remain free pending sentencing, and off he went.

Today is the 35th day that convicted rapist David Fuster has remained a fugitive. This is simply intolerable. We understand that Mr. Helfand was only doing his job by working to get his client the best possible deal. On the other hand, Mr. Helfand, and defense attorneys in general, need to understand that, as officers of the court, they have a responsibility to the public as well. They are endangering the community when they fight to allow clients, especially sexual predators, to remain free after their convictions. The possibility of flight and the potential danger to public safety are too risky.

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