The trial for the former owner of Bellefonte Family Dentistry accused of kidnapping and raping a patient of 17 years began on Monday.
Wade Newman, 48, allegedly drove a sedated female patient to a root canal appointment he arranged at a State College area dental office in October 2016. Spring Township police said Newman drove the woman back to her residence — although she asked to be driven back to her mother’s residence — after the procedure, which is where the rape allegedly occurred.
Newman is charged with four felonies — rape, criminal attempt at rape, sexual assault and kidnapping — and two misdemeanor counts of indecent assault.
District Attorney Bernie Cantorna told the jury of six men and six women about the investigation that led to the charges against Newman.
Cantorna said at one point, representatives from nearly every law enforcement agency in Centre County were in the Spring Township municipal building — with two additional detectives in the woman’s basement — listening to a conversation between the woman and Newman through an app on her cell phone. A device that looked like a key fob was placed on a windowsill to record video and audio of the conversation.
Cantorna said Newman asked the woman for a glass of water and, as she turned her back to him and the phone, picked up the phone, turned it off and smiled as he placed it back down.
He also told jurors about the checklist that is to be completed by both the patient and their caregiver before they’re administered anesthesia. The checklist advises the patient about general practices, like not ingesting unapproved medication and not eating or drinking at least eight hours before the procedure.
“None of that is done in this case,” Cantorna said.
The morning of the procedure, the woman said Newman was acting odd, different and was driving fast. She also texted her husband that Newman was “creepy.”
The two returned to her residence after the procedure and Cantorna said Newman raped her on the steps.
“You know you’ve always wanted this,” Newman allegedly said.
Steven Trialonas, Newman’s attorney, said in his opening statement, “I heard what (Cantorna) said, but I also heard what he didn’t say,” Trialonas said. “False allegations of rape is an attack on human innocence.”
He also said being a defense lawyer can be “really, really hard” sometimes, but Newman’s trial is not one of those times.
“Today, with your help, we get to right a wrong. Dr. Newman is nothing but completely innocent,” Trialonas said. “It has been said that a lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth gets to put its pants on. But over the next four days, it’s going to have a chance to catch up.”
The truth, according to Trialonas, was never presented because law enforcement assumed the worst and assumed Newman was guilty before the investigation was completed.
“It’s sometimes referred to as the detective’s curse. As you investigate, you process it through that lens of guilt,” Trialonas said. “That’s what happened here.”
Trialonas then attempted to provide additional context about the sexual encounter on the steps. He said the woman put on lingerie, exposed herself to Newman and the two then had sexual intercourse on the steps.
“Was it the smartest thing in the world for Newman to do? Obviously not. Criminal? Rape? Sexual assault? Kidnapping? No, absolutely not. Dumb? Yeah. Was he using his brain? No, no he wasn’t. Was it criminal? Was it rape? Absolutely not.”
Richard Miller — who bought Bellefonte Family Dentistry from Newman — testified about the effects of anesthesia, the investigation into Newman and the way his office coped with the situation.
Miller told Assistant District Attorney Crystal Hundt he received a security alert, which is not atypical, while at the YMCA in Bellefonte. He then testified he went to the office and several police officers were alongside former District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller. He was asked to contact Newman and tell him that police wished to speak with him.
Miller testified he called Newman, who asked, “Is this in regard to (the woman)?”
“When he said that, my whole perception changed. How did he know that name?” Miller testified. “I was very angry that he knew her name.”
During Miller’s cross-examination, Trialonas asked him if he was aware that Newman was aware of the allegations before the two spoke on the phone, which is how he knew of the woman’s name. Miller testified he was not.
Trialonas also explored the sale of the practice from Newman to Miller.
Miller testified the original valuation was about $1 million, but he eventually bought the business for about $650,000 after the allegations were made public.
“You got it at a steal,” Trialonas said.
Miller disagreed because he said a dental office is appraised on production, revenue and amount of dentists working at the practice.
“It would’ve been difficult to find a dentist to pay what I did,” Miller testified.
Trialonas then inquired about notes that Miller left for his employees, which discussed the allegations.
One of the notes referred to Newman as “Mr. Happy Pants” and Trialonas asked Miller if this is how he repaid someone who hired him, trained him and left him with a successful practice.
“I know I was being immature,” Miller testified. “I’m sorry for doing it, but this is how we coped. We had to respond some way.”
The office’s response also included a Disney World countdown calendar that was marked for the first day of the trial and a “Newman jar,” which required employees to put money in the jar if they discussed the case.
“It was a coping mechanism,” Miller testified. “I never expected this to come back to me.”
The trial is scheduled to resume Tuesday and conclude Thursday.