SAN RAFAEL — A Santa Rosa surgeon accused of arranging a sexual encounter with a 13-year-old Marin County girl he met online waived his right to a preliminary hearing Wednesday, paving the way for his criminal case to proceed to trial.
Orthopedic hand specialist Raymond Severt, 53, is charged with attempted child molestation and three other felonies stemming from his Feb. 11 arrest, when police intercepted him en route to the would-be rendezvous point.
Severt has pleaded not guilty.
But his attorney, L. Stephen Turer, conceded outside court Wednesday that the prosecution, using police testimony, would have presented sufficient evidence to meet the "reasonable suspicion" threshhold that would permit a judge to send the case to trial, where the higher standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt would apply.
Turer said the reason he advised Severt to waive the preliminary hearing was because the defense had nothing to gain from a recounting of what's in the police report without an opportunity to question the alleged victim about the full extent of her communication with Severt and to test her credibility.
But the waiver of a preliminary hearing is rare enough that Judge Kelly Vieira Simmons said it was not immediately clear what time factors would apply.
Severt was forced to sever ties with his medical practice, Santa Rosa Orthopaedics, after his medical license was suspended because of the pending criminal case. But he has a new Facebook page and web site touting his abilities as a hand surgeon. The Internet site included a phone number connecting to his former practice until it was removed Wednesday afternoon.
Lorelai Debenedetti, administrator for Santa Rosa Orthopaedics, said Severt had no continuing association with the practice.
She said its members had been unaware of his continued use of a practice phone number.
He is to return to court Sept. 26 for arraignment in Superior Court in advance of setting of a trial date.
Police said Severt sent explicit text messages to the girl after meeting her through an Internet chat room last winter and arranged to meet her at a residential intersection in Novato for the purpose of having sex.
But the girl's mother found the texts and tipped authorities, who were awaiting Severt when he arrived in town, police said.
Turer has said his client never intended to have sex with a minor, having met the girl through an adults-only site whose users must verify they are 18.
The girl initially told Severt she was 21 and only confessed to being under 18 when the doctor was on his way to meet her, Turer said. He said Severt proceeded because he was uncertain what her real age was.
But family members said the graphic text exchange made it clear the surgeon knew the girl's true age.
Law enforcement authorities say their belief he knew she was a minor is implicit in the charges on which he was arrested and later charged.
The charges include attempted lewd acts with a child under age 14, communicating with a minor for the purpose of lewd behavior, arranging a meeting with a minor for the purposes of lewd behavior, and distribution of lewd material to a minor.
Severt could be sent to prison for more than seven years if convicted as charged and would have to register as a sex offender.
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