Defendant Brent Noorda addresses judge during sentencing hearing in 5th District Court in St. George, Utah, July 20, 2022 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News
ST. GEORGE — A local chiropractor was sentenced in 5th District Court, where nearly a dozen women addressed the judge during the four-hour hearing that ended shortly before 8 p.m. on Wednesday.
The defendant, Brent David Noorda, 42, appeared in 5th District Court for sentencing on two second-degree felony counts of forcible sexual abuse and three misdemeanor counts of sexual battery, charges the defendant pleaded no contest to on May 25, three days before the case was scheduled for trial.
The case was filed in August 2019 following an investigation into a number of reports of alleged sexual misconduct that was forwarded to the St. George Police Department by the Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing. The reports were filed under the premise that Noorda’s actions possibly were criminal in nature and were then forwarded to law enforcement for further investigation.
According to investigators, the defendant provided breast massages to multiple patients under the guise it would loosen the muscle and was necessary for medical reasons. The defendant also made inappropriate comments during the chiropractic adjustments, as well as comments involving the bust size of other patients and when confronted “he would say it was for medical reasons.”
The defendant originally was charged with 20 second-degree felony counts of forcible sexual abuse, and under the terms of the plea agreement, the state filed an amended information listing two second-degree felony forcible sexual abuse charges and three misdemeanor sexual battery charges.
According to the state, the defendant’s actions revealed a specific pattern of conduct, including a selection process by which the defendant chose which of his patients he would victimize, those primarily consisting of the most vulnerable patients who had come to him for help – women the defendant took advantage of for his own sexual gratification, court documents revealed.
That specific pattern of conduct was also mentioned by District Judge G. Michael Westfall, who presided over the sentencing hearing on Wednesday, while the state was represented by Prosecutor Zachary Weiland during the proceedings.
As part of the settlement agreement, Weiland did not address the court during the hearing, and instead, nearly a dozen of the defendant’s patients and employees either read their victim impact statements or spoke in open court as they described the damage left in the wake of the defendant’s actions.
Patients and employees speak up
Several of the victims who addressed the court spoke of the underlying distrust of physicians and of the medical profession in general, while others described the stress and trauma they continue to suffer.
One woman stated the crimes have left her unable to go out in public, while several others stated the effects have led to diagnosis of post traumatic stress syndrome.
One woman stated that women’s liberty has been stolen by Noorda’s actions, adding that collectively, their “inner image has been mutilated and our confidence was silenced.”
“Our self-worth is shattered,” she added.
Another woman, who was a patient and employee of the defendant, described the way in which the defendant would press himself against her, and on other occasions he would touch her breasts, hips and backside. She said she endured the defendant’s inappropriate actions and continued working for Noorda to support her children as the sole provider for the family.
A number of the complainants stated they continued going to Noorda because they were unaware the defendant’s actions were outside of the scope of chiropractic practice, while another woman said she was left so mentally and physically shattered that there are still days she is unable to go out in public.
One woman addressed the court by saying the defendant used his medical practice to gain access to patients’ bodies for purposes “that were outside the scope of chiropractic service.”
For another victim, the trauma from her time spent as a patient of the defendant has resulted in attacks so severe that she was transported by ambulance to the hospital on more than one occasion, as well as countless emergency room visits with symptoms that included the feeling that her throat was closing and she could not breathe.
She also said it was only after she saw the defendant in bookings that she realized what had happened and came forward.
Each victim described similar accounts relating to the defendant’s actions, and the abuse resulted in trauma and damage that ranged from an inability to trust, to mental and physical damage requiring intervention.
The women described the defendant as a predator, some saying he demonstrated grooming behavior and all saying he needed to be locked away so he could not hurt anyone else.
Foundational probe by the defense
Each of the complainants was under oath as they read their statements in open court, which was necessary to allow Noorda’s defense attorney, Douglas Terry, to ask questions.
What was revealed during the questioning was that all but one of the women continued their treatment with Noorda after the incidents described in court took place, and the number of appointments for each ranged from 36 to more than 130 and more than half of them gave Noorda a five-star rating or a favorable recommendation.
It was also revealed that several of the victims referred family members to the defendant after the incidents they described in court took place, and a majority of the women continued to see the doctor for several years.
The attorney also confirmed that one of the complainants was referred to the defendant by a relative who also worked at the clinic, in addition to being one of the parties who spoke of abuse in open court, saying that Noorda’s actions may have long-term effects on her health, since she now deals with anxiety and depression and avoids those in the medical profession.
Terry also questioned one of the complainants about a series of interviews she conducted with Noorda for a business class project, during the time she was being treated by the defendant who had “touched her inappropriately” multiple times, she had said during her address. The attorney also confirmed that those meetings had taken place at the office when the complainant was alone with the defendant.
In his closing statement, Terry said his client has a proven track record of following whatever conditions or restrictions set forth by the court thus far. He also mentioned that more than a dozen letters were received in support of Noorda. And while they were not read in open court, they were written by individuals who were aware of the details of the case but still spoke of the character of the defendant and the good he has done, the attorney said.
Terry added that Noorda does, in fact, feel a great sense of remorse and regret.
“This has taken a tremendous toll on his family, his former spouse and his children,” said Terry, adding that his client has suffered greatly over the case, has done a lot of good and also helped many people, several of whom testified during the hearing.
He also asked the court to grant his client probation, citing that Noorda has no criminal history and ranked low on the matrix, which provided a range of probation to 210 days incarceration as a standard recommendation.
Terry closed by saying, “The easy thing would be just to send him to prison. I asked the court to not make the easy decision but to make the hard decision and take into account the lengthy time of incarceration that he has served.”
The defendant’s address
Noorda also spoke during the hearing and said he has taken accountability for his actions since his arrest, adding his efforts have continued for more than three years. He also said he felt great remorse for how he made each of the women feel, and for any loss of trust his actions may have caused.
The defendant also said he lost his business, his medical license, his home and everything else – except for his family – “which is most important,” he said, adding that he has and will continue to be punished for his actions.
He also said his primary goal is to fix and repair the lives that have been damaged, efforts he has undertaken over the last three years, one in jail and two years on house arrest, he said, and then he asked the court to allow him the opportunity to make things right.
“I know that these women are begging for prison,” Noorda said. “But I ask you to give me a chance.”
He then asked that he be sentenced to another year in confinement, as opposed to going to prison.
Westfall commented prior to ruling in the case, and said he was not going to rely on a computerized matrix or mathematics to determine a sentence in the case, but would consider the mitigating factors and the merits of the case under Utah law.
The judge also mentioned the collateral damage left in the wake of the case involving not only the victims and their families, but the family and the children of the defendant as well.
“Innocent people get hurt,” Westfall said.
He also mentioned a letter sent from a sitting judge on behalf of Noorda that characterized the defendant’s conduct as “a product of weakness,” as opposed to his having an evil disposition.
Even so, Westfall said, one factor that was central to the case was the defendant’s intentions, and despite Noorda’s assertion to the contrary, the judge said, “I am persuaded that his actions were for his own sexual gratification.”
He also said his ruling would be based upon the fact that first and foremost, that Noorda abused his position of special trust as a medical practitioner, the judge said, and it is that high level of trust that makes it possible for patients to be victimized – which he believed was a factor present in this case.
Westfall went on to say that many of the victims relied heavily upon that position of trust, being that a number of them had already suffered emotional, if not physical abuse as well, prior to going to the defendant for help.
“And that really contributed to what we had going on here,” the judge said.
Westfall then sentenced Noorda to serve 1-15 years in Utah State Prison on each of the second-degree felony charges to be run concurrently. The defendant was also ordered to serve 0-1 year in prison for each of the misdemeanor charges that were also ordered to run concurrently. The defendant was granted 366 days credit for time served. He was also ordered to register as a sex offender upon his release.
The defendant was taken into custody and the transport order to Utah State Prison was signed at the close of the hearing that took place shortly after 8 p.m., and his commitment was ordered to begin immediately.
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