QUEENSBURY — A Queensbury town justice has dismissed a sexual abuse charge filed against a local chiropractor who was accused of unwanted sexual contact with a patient, as prosecutors instead seek a trial on a less weighty harassment charge.
Town Justice Eric Schwenker dismissed the misdemeanor sexual abuse count against Jeffrey B. Sawyer with the consent of the Warren County District Attorney’s Office, court records show.
“It was certainly a weight off our shoulders,” Sawyer’s lawyer, Cheryl Coleman, said Tuesday.
The district attorney’s office instead filed a noncriminal charge of second-degree harassment, and Sawyer will stand trial on that charge on Wednesday.
That trial will be a bench trial, with Schwenker instead of a jury deciding whether Sawyer is guilty. Had the misdemeanor charge remained, Sawyer would have been entitled to a jury trial, unless he waived a jury.
Warren County District Attorney Jason Carusone would not discuss the decision to consent to the dismissal before the trial, saying he was reserving comment until after the case was resolved.
The decision absolves Sawyer of any criminal charges, with the harassment count instead alleging he had unwanted physical contact with the 18-year-old woman in an examination room in January 2018. The charge is punishable by up to 15 days in jail, while the misdemeanor could have brought a six-month jail term.
A conviction for a charge related to conduct with a patient could affect his state chiropractic license, which has remained in good standing since he was charged in April 2018.
Coleman said the result of the case will have an impact on whatever state disciplinary action may occur, but it won’t be “binding” for licensure purposes.
The young woman accused Sawyer of kissing her on the mouth and neck, putting his hands down the back of her pants and fondling her genitalia through her clothes during a visit for a back adjustment, after making a number of inquiries about her sex life. She told police she left abruptly but did not disclose the alleged abuse until she told a friend weeks later, and that friend notified a school teacher.
Shortly after Sawyer’s arrest, a second young female patient of Sawyer’s came forward to claim she stopped seeing him for chiropractic care because of questions he asked about her sex life and personal life that made her feel “uncomfortable.” She said news accounts she read said the teen who accused him of unwanted sexual contact reported the same conversation took place beforehand.
The 22-year-old claimed, in a sworn deposition, that he “constantly asked me about having a boyfriend.”
The case appeared close to being resolved last month, when Sawyer was in court for a possible adjournment in contemplation of dismissal, but he eventually opted for a trial instead when the teen wanted to give a victim’s impact statement even though there would have been no conviction.
Sawyer, 34, has pleaded not guilty and maintained his innocence. He has had a state license to work as a chiropractor since 2012.
Coleman said the trial could take two days.