Ex-Boone County pediatrician convicted of molesting patients loses appeal

A former Boone County pediatrician convicted on multiple charges of sexual misconduct against his minor patients has lost his appeal of his felony convictions and his consecutive sentences.

The Indiana Court of Appeals on Friday affirmed Dr. Jonathon Cavins’ convictions of two counts of Level 4 felony child molesting, one count of Level 5 felony sexual misconduct with a minor and two counts of Level 6 felony child seduction. The appellate panel in a memorandum decision also upheld his aggregate 23-year sentence, with four years suspended to probation.

Cavins practiced at Witham Health Services in Lebanon. The sexual misconduct began there in July 2018, when Cavins saw 13-year-old Z.B.

After performing a standard physical exam on Z.B., whose mother was in the room, Cavins took the teenager into another room alone and eventually asked Z.B. if he was sexually active. When Z.B. said no, Cavins retrieved a condom, began rubbing Z.B.’s penis and put the condom on Z.B. The teen reported the incident to his mother.

Cavins would repeat the same or similar conduct on other patients including 16-year-old B.H., 15-year-old J.S., 16-year-old S.H. and 12-year-old A.M. Among the victims, B.H. pulled away from Cavins, S.H. smacked Cavins’ hand away and A.M. declined Cavins’ invitation to see a condom, though Cavins produced one any way. The doctor told S.H. to keep the incident “between us” and likewise told A.M. that he didn’t have to tell his parents what happened.

J.S. reported the incident to his parents, but his father decided not to report Cavins because he trusted the pediatrician and “had faith that nothing untoward had happened.” A.M.’s mother, however, reported the incident involving her 12-year-old son to police, which resulted in Cavins’ arrest and eventual conviction.

On appeal, “Cavins contends that the State produced insufficient proof to establish this for any of his five convictions, insisting that he never touched the boys’ penises after introducing the condom and that his touching of the five boys was therefore within the bounds of acceptable medical practice,” Chief Judge Cale Bradford wrote in a Friday opinion.

“As for Cavins’s claim at trial that he had never touched any of the boys’ penises, all testified to the contrary, and the jury was entitled to credit the boys’ testimony on this point and reject Cavins’s, which it did,” Bradford wrote. “… Moreover, it was admitted by Cavins at trial that there was no medical reason to ever put a condom on a patient or stroke a patient’s penis in order to induce an erection during a medical exam.”

Bradford also pointed to the statements Cavins made to the boys, including making references to masturbation and telling two of the victims not to share what had happened in the exam room. Those statements, the chief judge said, “support a finding that (Cavins) had the requisite intent.”

The appellate panel also rejected Cavins’ sentencing challenges, including his argument that his five consecutive sentences were an abuse of discretion.

“In imposing consecutive sentences here, the trial court specifically stated that it was doing so because of the five separate victims involved in Cavins’s five sex offenses,” Bradford wrote. “The Indiana Supreme Court has held that ‘[w]hen the perpetrator commits the same offense against two victims, enhanced and consecutive sentences seem necessary to vindicate the fact that there were separate harms and separate acts against more than one person.’ Serino v. State, 798 N.E.2d 852, 857 (Ind. 2003). Cavins does not argue that this was an improper basis on which to order consecutive sentences.”

Also, Bradford continued, the Boone Superior Court properly rejected Cavins’ proffered mitigators: his lack of criminal history, his dedication to the community and his family, and the undue hardship on his family resulting in his incarceration.

Finally, the appellate panel held, Cavins’ sentence is not inappropriate

“Given the violation of trust and number of victims involved, the nature of Cavins’s offense is somewhat egregious,” Bradford wrote. “… As for Cavins’s character, while we acknowledge his lack of prior criminal history, we do not think it can be emphasized enough that Cavins abused his position as a trusted medical professional to commit sex offenses against five of his minor patients.”

The case is Jonathon Cavins v. State of Indiana, 20A-CR-1213.

After he was charged, Cavins in March 2019 surrendered his medical license. The suspension was extended for another 90 days the following May,  and online records show that his license remains under suspension.

The family of 12-year-old A.M. filed a civil suit against Cavins in March 2019.  The last action in that case — Doe, et al. v. Cavins, et al., 06C01-1903-CT-000417 — was in June 2020, when the trial court granted a motion to compel documents.

Witham Health Services is also facing a civil lawsuit in connection with Cavins, though that litigation was partially dismissed in May. That case is John Doe v. Anonymous M.D., et al., 06C01-2003-CT-000412.

Online records show that Cavins is incarcerated at the Pendleton Correctional Facility. His earliest possible release date is March 1, 2034.

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