October 20, 2010

UI Professor Assaulted Lab Assistant Many Times, Alleged Victim Testifies

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itoh

University of Iowa medical personnel testified Tuesday that a lab assistant to a professor had been beaten and sexually assaulted by her supervisor numerous times over a period of one and half years in 2007 and 2008.

Toshiki Itoh

Testifying in the trial of Assistant Professor Toshiki Itoh, 47, who is accused of sexual abuse in the third degree and two counts of assault causing bodily injury, student health physician Marina Usacheva said the lab assistant told her she had been “hit and kicked by her boss” and said that he had touched her breasts.

When prosecutor Elizabeth Beglin asked for Usecheva’s diagnosis of the woman’s condition, she said, “physical assault.”

Itoh is a faculty member in the UI Department of Pathology. He draws a salary of $93,000 a year and was put on paid leave after he was charged in 2008. He has been here since 2005.

The sexual abuse charge covers a period from Jan. 1, 2007, through July 10, 2008, and the assaults allegedly happened on July 8 and July 10 in 2008. Itoh has pled not guilty.

Dr. Mark Graber, an emergency room physician at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, said the woman told him she had not lodged a complaint earlier, because she was worried about being deported.

The lab assistant is a foreign national, and Itoh was the sponsor for the victim’s visa, Graber said.

The charges were filed after the assistant made a 911 call on July 10 of that year from a lab in the College of Medicine to the campus police. When Officer Elizabeth Vriezleaar arrived, she found the woman bearing bruises and scratches on her arms and face, a police record in court files says.

On Tuesday Vriezleaar said the woman told her Itoh had beat her on July 8, and that when she called Itoh the next day saying she would miss work because of the pain from her injuries, he responded angrily.

“Come back immediately or don’t come back at all,” the assistant said according Vriezleaar’s testimony. The officer said that the assistant told her that Itoh beat her again when she returned to work the next day.

Vriezleaar shot the photographs of the woman’s injuries, and they were subject of much of the testimony Tuesday.

The bruises on the victim’s forearms were consistent with defensive wounds, according to Graber, the emergency room physician. The bruises on her abdomen were consistent with having been punched, and were inconsistent with incidental damage that might otherwise occur, he said.

Graber testified that the different stages of aging of the bruises also indicated that the wounds were consistent with multiple assaults over an indefinite period of time. He examined the woman on July 10 at about 2:30 p.m. before she was admitted to the UIHC.

Itoh studied to get his M.D. and PhD at Kumamoto University School of Medicine in Japan from 1989 to 1996. He did research at the University of California-Berkeley from 1999 to 2005, when he moved to Iowa City. Since then, he has done research in the pathology department at the University of Iowa.

The trial began Monday with jury selection, with testimony starting Tuesday. It will resume today.