Dirk de Brito, 54, of La Cañada Flintridge, who specializes in adult ADHD, bipolar disorder and depression, faces two civil lawsuits. He maintains he never physically harmed his employees.
De Brito pleaded “no contest” in May to two misdemeanor charges related to accusations he attacked his children’s nanny at his home in October 2015 and a former employee outside his medical office in January 2016.
The psychiatrist was originally charged with two felony counts of assault by means of force and one count each of making criminal threats, interfering with a communication device, having a concealed firearm and exhibiting a firearm.
But as part of a plea deal, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office dropped four of the original charges and pursued the remaining two charges — assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury and making criminal threats — as misdemeanors due to “the weight of the evidence,” according to district attorney spokesman Ricardo Santiago.
Santiago said prosecutors believed the negotiated plea was “fair and just.”
As a result of the conviction, de Brito was sentenced to three years summary probation and ordered to perform 20 days of community service and complete a 52-week anger management program or 52 weeks of counseling.
“I am very sorry that my actions, real or perceived, created anxiety and hardship for my family, for my community and for my patients and cast a negative light,” de Brito said by phone Friday. “My focus is, as it has always been, on the health and welfare of my family and patients.”
In sworn testimony during a preliminary hearing last year, April Montes, who worked as a live-in nanny for de Brito, said the doctor put her in a headlock, punched her and threatened to kill her and bury her in the backyard when she arrived at his La Cañada Flintridge home the evening of Oct. 14, 2015.
“He said I abused his 2-year-old,” Montes told the judge. After that, she said, De Brito “put me in a headlock, started hitting me.”
De Brito’s attorney Christopher Chaney said de Brito made threatening statements toward Montes after learning his child was taken to preschool late and with a full, dirty diaper, but the doctor did not physically harm or even touch her.
“He threatened her, he was mad, he was yelling and screaming,” Chaney said. “When it comes to defending his children, I think that Dr. De Brito is very serious about that.”
In the second incident in January 2016, his office manager Jeanice Skeen testified de Brito kicked her and hit her with a gun still in its holster in the parking lot of his office the night after she walked off the job. The incident caused her to suffer bleeding, bruising, a sprained wrist and a hematoma on her brain, according to her testimony. She reportedly sought treatment at Huntington Hospital.
Chaney said de Brito was not armed in the incident and that he did not physically hurt her.
“We believe she completely made that up,” he said.
BACK TO COURT
Both women have filed civil lawsuits against de Brito.
An attorney for Montes said de Brito’s criminal sentence was “just the start.”
“He has just begun to pay for his crimes. He must still face justice for his egregious discrimination (disability and gender), harassment, retaliation, sexual harassment, breach of contract, and other wrongdoings,” Carney Shegerian of Shegerian & Associates said in a statement. “We look forward to seeing him in court early next year before a jury so that our client, Ms. Montes, can get some closure.”
Skeen’s attorney Dimitri Hurt said his client was “very unhappy” with the sentence received by de Brito.
“She felt like he got off easy,” Hurt said. He declined to comment further.
De Brito is a licensed physician and certified psychiatrist with admitting privileges at Huntington Hospital, though he is currently on leave of absence from the health care facility.
MEDICAL BOARD REVIEW
In March, less than two months before his conviction, representatives of the Medical Board of California appeared before a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge and requested she prohibit de Brito from treating patients.
In addition to the incidents involving Montes and Skeen, the medical board cited an allegation that de Brito punched his 17-year-old daughter in the face in January 2017 as reasons warranting the issuance of a “no practice order.” No charges were filed with regard to that incident and a case was declined due to “the victim not wishing to proceed,” according to the District Attorney’s office.
The medical board’s request, which Chaney called “extreme,” was denied.
Christine Valine, a spokeswoman with the Medical Board of California, said she could not comment on whether the state licensing agency was considering any disciplinary action against de Brito as a result of the misdemeanor conviction, but said the board was aware of the situation and is “looking into it.”
According to the board’s website, de Brito has faced no disciplinary actions since his medical license was issued in 1998.
To suspend or revoke a physician’s license, the medical board, through the California Attorney General’s office, would have to file an accusation that a physician has violated the state Medical Practice Act and request a administrative hearing during which the physician would be able to dispute the charges.
An administrative law judge would then make a recommendation to board members who make the final decision on whether to discipline a physician.
“Before we bring the accusation, we look to see if the crime is substantially related to the duties of a physician,” Valine said.
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