ST. GEORGE — A local chiropractor who has spent the last year in jail on multiple felony charges appeared in court Thursday, where both sides presented arguments involving the defendant’s release while awaiting trial, balancing public safety against the premise that the accused are innocent until proven guilty.
Brent David Noorda, 40, who faces 20 second-degree felony counts of sexual abuse, appeared for a bail reduction hearing held in 5th District Court, where both sides argued whether the defendant’s bail of $200,000 should be reduced. All parties made an appearance via video.
The charges stem from an arrest in August 2019 following an investigation that began at the end of July of last year when a number of reports of alleged sexual misconduct were forwarded to the St. George Police Department by the Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing. The reports were sent under the premise that Noorda’s actions could be a criminal matter that should be reported to law enforcement for further investigation.
During Thursday’s hearing, prosecutor Zachary Weiland presented several witnesses who testified before the court in an effort to deter Judge Micheal Westfall from lowering the defendant’s bail in the interest of public safety. Weiland said that instead of being lowered, it should be raised to $500,000, the amount that was set at the time of Noorda’s arrest.
The first witness testified that she was a patient of Noorda’s for approximately three years and also became an employee of the clinic. She testified that Noorda touched her inappropriately on “many” occasions.
She said that as an employee, she was routinely asked by Noorda to put on a small-size paper gown – the only size available at the clinic – and help him test his equipment, which was several years old. She said the gowns, which were ordered specifically by Noorda, exposed much of not only her body but those of the patients as well. She also testified that during many of the exams, Noorda recommended that he do a pelvic exam.
During cross examination, defense attorney Douglas Terry asked if the doctor had ever performed a pelvic exam on the individual, to which she said “no” but added that he asked to perform one “on just about every visit.”
Terry also asked about the number of patients the witness referred to Noorda over the span of more than two years, to which the witness testified there were several, including a teenage patient. He also asked if the individual told her spouse about the inappropriate interactions. She confirmed that her spouse was advised but said the spouse never confronted Noorda.
Upon further questioning, the witness testified that they invited Noorda and his family to a Halloween party at their home, which Terry confirmed was during the time of employment when the alleged misconduct was taking place.
The witness went on to explain that the depth of the abuse was not realized until later, after she was no longer an employee or patient of Noorda’s, and she only realized how serious the defendant’s behavior was after he had hurt one of her family members. She also said there has been no contact with the defendant since terminated her employment in 2015.
Upon redirect, it was revealed that Noorda opposed the protective order that was ultimately filed by the witness after she terminated their employment, and when Weiland raised the question of the gown, the witness said that Noorda’s response had been that it was a shipment issue.
Another witness, who became a patient of Noorda’s in 2017, testified the doctor ordered testing of her hormones, and when the tests were returned, Noorda told the witness she needed a breast exam and offered to conduct the exam during the visit.
The witness testified that after telling Noorda she would see her obstetrician for that, he continued to bring the offer up “during every visit,” and when she told Noorda that she had the exam performed by another doctor, Noorda “became very flustered, and said I shouldn’t have made such a big deal out of it.”
The witness said she discontinued treatment in 2019 after Noorda “kept bringing up my breasts,” as well as other issues that were unrelated to the neck pain that prompted her to seek treatment in the first place. She contacted police after Noorda’s arrest.
Two other witnesses testified to similar incidents with Noorda, including visits that involved him touching their breasts during more than one examination. Both witnesses said that Noorda’s focus was on their breasts and that examinations included “skin to skin” contact, and that during each of the inappropriate contacts, the witnesses were alone with the doctor and the door was always closed.
One witness testified that she felt “violated” during the visits and that Noorda “would get more and more brazen,” adding that after she was no longer a patient of Noorda’s, she was told by another physician that Noorda’s practices were not within the scope of any approved chiropractic methods.
During cross examination with this witness, as well as the woman who claimed the doctor repeatedly pushed for a breast exam, Terry asked if they ever had contact with Noorda since discontinuing treatment. Both witnesses said there had been no additional contact.
When it came to arguments related to the defendant’s release, Weiland started off by saying that Noorda “has a specific fettish … and has used that to touch women inappropriately.”
“Why would we release a serial sex offender back out into society?” Weiland said, adding later that “by releasing him, that would be putting Washington County at risk.”
The defense countered by saying that the fact remains that Noorda has sat in jail for nearly a year without being found guilty of any crime, reminding the court that his client is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Terry also said that Noorda poses no threat to the public and cannot practice his profession after a temporary suspension was filed within days of his arrest by the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing. The suspension would remain in effect until the criminal case is resolved. He also said his client has not attempted to make any contact with the victims and has been a model prisoner while in custody.
The attorney went on to say that his client would be electronically monitored upon his release and has a clean criminal record prior to the current charges. He added that Noorda’s trial is still months away due to court delays resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, which he said Noorda played no part in and for which he should not be penalized.
When the prosecution was asked if there was any other evidence to support the state’s position that Noorda poses a threat to the public other than the allegations related to his chiropractic practice, Weiland responded by saying the defendant has “the mind of a sexual predator” and that there are “so many victims out there” that the state is still coming into contact with.
Additionally, Weiland said, there are medical records that Noorda would have access to outside of jail, records that haven’t even been provided to the victims. He also said that Noorda acts on his sexual urges by victimizing those who are weak and vulnerable and that he would seek victims outside of a medical office to sexually abuse.
Terry responded by saying that his office was willing to turn all medical records over to the state, adding that the state provided no evidence there were any other alleged victims that were outside of the scope of the medical practice. However, the judge responded by saying that Noorda did in fact hold a position of trust as a doctor and that he could potentially use that position to contact the victims or to possibly find future victims.
Once all arguments were heard, Westfall said the court’s primary concerns involve public safety, the likelihood of Noorda fleeing or failing to appear in court and the risk of Noorda contacting his victims, which the judge said there was no evidence presented during the hearing that would support those claims.
He also reiterated that every victim either worked for or was a patient of Noorda, and he asked the state if there were any victims outside of Noorda’s medical practice, to which Weiland said the investigation is ongoing and that the state believes there are other victims, which could include one that wasn’t connected to the medical office.
Even so, Westfall ordered that Noorda be released on his own recognizance and placed on house arrest with electronic monitoring once arrangements for appropriate housing were confirmed during the hearing.
He also imposed stipulations, ordering that Noorda is prohibited from contacting any of the victims and from accessing or destroying any records, and he ordered special restrictions involving internet access.
Once the court has verified that these arrangements have been made, the defendant will be released.
The judge also told Weiland if it is warranted that Noorda be arrested on any potential new charges, then it’s up to the prosecution to file the paperwork.
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