Criminal charges were filed Thursday against a prominent Santa Rosa surgeon accused of trying to molest a 13-year-old girl he met through an online chat room.

Raymond Severt, 53, faces up to four years in prison and the loss of his medical license if he is convicted of four felony charges filed Thursday by the Marin County District Attorney's Office.

Severt's attorney, Steve Turer, called the case a "misunderstanding" and said Severt never intended to have sex with a minor.

"It's one of these not-so-unusual situations anymore where you're online and you don't know who you are talking to," Turer said.

Severt was arrested on a Novato street corner Feb. 11 at what police say was supposed to be a rendezvous with a 13-year-old girl.

Officers instead were awaiting Severt's arrival. Turer said the girl's mother contacted authorities after she saw text messages that referenced the meeting.

Severt is married and has two teenage children, Turer said. He is on administrative leave from Santa Rosa Orthopaedics, where he has been a practicing surgeon since July 2009.

Turer said Severt initially contacted the girl through the online dating website Visitors to the site leave a greeting that other users can browse. The rules say the service is for people 18 and over.

Turer said the girl originally told Severt that she was over 21. He said the pair exchanged sexually explicit messages before arranging to meet in Novato.

On the way to the rendezvous, Severt received a text message from the girl informing the surgeon that she was in fact under 18, Turer said.

"Certainly it raises some questions," Turer said.

He said Severt pressed on because there was no way the surgeon could know for sure how old the girl was without seeing her.

He said Severt "didn't have any condoms. He didn't have any alcohol with him. He didn't have any toys. His thinking was more, 'I'll see what happens when I get there.' "

Novato police arrested Severt upon his arrival. He has been free on bail while the investigation continued.

A Marin County deputy district attorney did not return a phone call Thursday seeking comment.

Turer said Severt was charged with attempted lewd acts with a child under 14, communicating with a minor for the purpose of lewd behavior, arranging a meeting with a minor for purposes of lewd behavior, and distribution of lewd material to a minor.

Turer said the latter charge reflects the sexually explicit messages Severt allegedly sent to the girl.

Turer said Severt would be required to register as a sex offender if he is convicted of any of the charges.

His arraignment is scheduled for Monday in Marin County Superior Court.

"He's obviously very upset," Turer said. "He's watching his whole life kind of flash before him."

You can reach Staff Writer Derek Moore at 521-5336 or On Twitter @deadlinederek.