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Ennis sexual assault prompts new bill

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ERIC CORNELISON
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AUSTIN - A bill filed last week could add to the current Texas law defining sexual assault and assist prosecutors in charging sexual offenders with a felony when it comes to bodily fluids.

The case of Ennis Dr. Aniruddha Ashok Chitale's was the seed which this proposed bill grew, according to Ellis County Assistant District Attorney Patrick Wilson.

Wilson was instrumental in drafting most of the bill filed by Waxahachie state Representative Jim Pitts.

'The bill will make a whole new law for the State of Texas,' Wilson said.

'It could be a valuable tool against child molesters, among other things.'

Even when the state found Chitale's semen on one of his female patients, the state decided against taking the case to trial because the evidence did not meet the current definition of sexual assault.

'The bill was filed to address (this) recent case in Ennis,' stated Pitts in a recent news release.

'Any reasonable person would be horrified by the facts in this case and conclude that this should be prosecuted as sexual assault.'

'Unfortunately with the law as currently written, the district attorney would have had a great deal of difficulty making the case for that charge.'

Under the bill, if the assault was committed with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person, the penalty is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and the person must register as a sex offender.

If the assault was committed with intent to assault, harass or alarm the victim, the penalty is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail.

If a third or second-degree felony is committed by a law enforcement officer, corrections officer or a variety of health care providers or anyone needing a license from the State of Texas, the crime could become an increased charge.

The bill includes harsher penalties if the victim is a child and was submitted right behind the approval of 'Jessica's Law.'

'This bill should give prosecutors an additional tool in these cases and hopefully prevent this from happening again,' stated Pitts.

Chitale pleaded guilty in 2005 to misdemeanor charges of indecent exposure and public lewdness related to assaults on his female patients the previous year. All of his patients were under sedation for different procedures at the Ennis Regional Medical Center and were under what this new bill is calling 'particularly vulnerable' to the authority of a health care provider or law enforcement official.

Prosecutors reached a plea agreement with Chitale in which he only got six months in the county jail and 10 years probation, even after prosecutors said they were confident a jury would have convicted Chitale on sexual assault based on the horrific conditions and the evidence that was clearly found on one of the victims.

The verdict would have easily been overturned on appeal which cast doubt on the sexual assault charges according to the prosecutors.

Twelve different women are part of a pending lawsuit against Chitale, Ennis Regional Medical Center and Digestive Health Associates, even though the hospital has settled with some of the women, because Chitale practiced for at least two years after patients first accused him.

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