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Prosecutors weigh charges against Santa Rosa doctor in teen sex case

Published: Thursday, February 21, 2013 at 6:40 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 22, 2013 at 2:51 p.m.

A well-known Santa Rosa orthopedic surgeon arrested last week on suspicion of attempted child molestation is on administrative leave while prosecutors decide whether to file charges.

Police are continuing to investigate the case to ensure there are no other potential victims, Novato police Lt. Oliver Collins said Thursday. There may be none, but it's a necessary step to ensure the public's safety, he said.

"Obviously, it's a high-value crime that is preying on the young, and it's something we take very seriously," Collins said. "The community's not going to put up with it, and we're not going to put up with it, so we're going to take what steps we need to do to make sure there aren't any other witnesses or potential victims out there."

No criminal charges have been filed so far against hand specialist Raymond Severt, who was arrested on a Novato street corner Feb. 11 at what police say was supposed to be a rendezvous with a 13-year-old girl.

Instead of the girl, police officers were awaiting Severt's arrival, reportedly tipped by the girl's parents that the 53-year-old had arranged to meet her for what authorities believe was a sexual liaison.

Police said the two met through an online chat room and that Severt is suspected of sending her sexually explicit messages in addition to arranging to meet her in a residential area in the south part of town.

Severt, who had been practicing with Santa Rosa Orthopeadics since July 2009, no longer appears as a member of the surgical staff on the group's website.

Lorelai Debenedetti, the practice administrator, said Severt is on administrative leave and it wasn't clear "when or if" he would return.

She said his patients had been reassigned in hopes of making any transfer of care as seamless as possible.

"There's nothing much we can do right now but, like I said, take care of the patients," Debenedetti said.

Severt's medical license, first issued in 1988, remains current, according to a representative of the California Medical Board. Frank Miller, a program support analyst for the board, said the agency is usually notified of a physician's arrest through the state Department of Justice, triggered by the fingerprinting of any medically licensed suspects.

California physicians also are mandated by regulation to inform the board any time they are convicted of a misdemeanor or have felony charges lodged against them.

After that, each situation is analyzed on a case-by-case basis to determine if there are implications for an individual's license to practice medicine, Miller said.

Severt was arrested on suspicion of making contact with a child with intent to commit a sexual offense, attempted child molestation and attempted lewd and lascivious acts with a child under age 14, police said.

Collins said police would not be releasing additional details but said the latter charge reflects evidence Severt was aware of the alleged victim's youth.

Marin County Chief Deputy District Attorney Barry Borden said no charges had been filed because his office was still reviewing the case.

Severt has not returned phone calls seeking comment.

He was booked into the Marin County Jail after his arrest and was released after posting bond for $500,000 bail. He was ordered to appear in court March 4.

You can reach Staff WriterMary Callahan at 521-5249 or mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.com.

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