No need to embarass the woman by name; she'll know who she is.
Back in December of 2001, this newspaper editorialized on the sordid tale of Dr. Jerry Jackson Lee II, a man we called the "Teflon Doc" because of his judge-assisted ability to slip out of serious consequences.
Specifically, we told the story of Lee getting lenient treatment for beating the daylights out of his wife. She told Columbia County deputies that her husband had dragged her by the hair and beaten her with a paddle, among other things. He was charged with felony assault and sexual assault. To dig the hole even deeper, Lee's wife helpfully told the cops about Lee's cache of weapons, in which they found an illegal machine gun.
Incredibly, though, when the cases went to separate trials, the charges slipped right off the Teflon Doc's back. The assaults? His wife recanted, and said she'd beaten herself up to get attention. In a bench trial, Judge Carlisle Overstreet acquitted Lee of everything but misdemeanor battery.
The trial on the illegal firearm charge was repeatedly delayed. Finally, in another bench trial, Senior Judge Bernard Mulherin acquitted Lee - admitting that he couldn't deny taking into account the impact a felony conviction would have on Lee's ability to practice medicine.
Well, gee thanks, judges; Here's what has happened since you turned Lee loose:
- Lee filed a $1.5 million lawsuit against a Mississippi hospital that wouldn't give him privileges to practice. After recruiting him, the hospital caught wind of the Columbia County charges and balked. The suit is still active.
- Lee racked up a bizarre pile of drug-misuse allegations in Hazelhurst, Ga., where he had moved his ob-gyn practice. The Georgia Composite State Board of Medical Examiners laid out charges of Lee obtaining and using pain killers and other drugs for himself and his wife. (One cancer patient even said Lee gave her a shot of Demerol, and then helped himself to a dose right in front of her.) As the probe gathered steam, Lee voluntarily surrendered his license in August 2003.
- Then, no longer licensed, Lee was convicted of felony fraud in June 2004 for obtaining drugs under the pretense that he was still a licensed doctor.
- Finally, back here in Columbia County, deputies were called two weeks ago to Lee's home, where his wife said Lee had molested a 9-year-old girl. This time it was Lee who was bruised up: His wife told police Lee had, among other things, picked up a knife when she confronted him with the molestation allegation. She sought help from her son, who punched Lee twice to keep him away from his mother.
Lee is now being held on felony charges of assault and child molestation in the Columbia County Detention Center, and Capt. Steve Morris says other charges are pending.
Bad news, eh? Well, remember that woman I mentioned at the beginning? Right after Lee's first arrest here in Evans, she called to defend Lee and to accuse the newspaper of being callously inconsiderate of Lee's family and his children by reporting on the details of his arrest.
We were supposed to just keep it all quiet, I guess, because Lee was a doctor, which made him a prominent member of the community - just like the judges who turned him loose and thereby allowed everything since then, which the police now say includes child molestation.
If that prominent woman still believes now what she did four years ago when she was raking us over the coals for doing our jobs, maybe she'll pay a personal visit to the Teflon Doc's family and comfort them for the pain they've suffered in the years since then.
Somehow, though, I doubt it. It's easier to beat up on the messenger than to admit the message was right.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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