Sentencing testimony for dentist's no contest sex plea turns salacious

David Sperry

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David Sperry

Affairs, his love for his receptionist, picking up prostitutes and women for trips on Lake Erie on his yacht — even hallucinations.

Those were just some of the details brought out Wednesday during a sentencing hearing for a prominent retired Ohio dentist who claims his dementia and Parkinson’s drugs made him involuntarily intoxicated and unable to control his actions on April 3, 2007. That’s when Dr. David Rees Sperry grabbed a teenage boy on Lely Barefoot Beach, pulled down the boy’s shorts and performed oral sex, then grabbed another teen who got away.

Sperry, now 68, of 14595 Glen Eden Drive in Naples, admits he molested the 14-year-old boy and pleaded no contest Monday to lewd and lascivious battery; the other sex charge involving an 18-year-old boy was dropped in February.

Sperry had denied the incident until DNA tests linked him to evidence found on the teen. That’s when he filed a motion to head to trial using an insanity defense, and blaming Mirapex, a Parkinson’s drug.

The second-degree felony is punishable by a maximum of 15 years in a state prison, but Sperry has no prior criminal record and a sentencing scoresheet, which calculates his clean record and this crime, adds up to 7¾ years in prison as the lowest recommended prison sentence.

Wednesday’s hearing was an attempt by Sperry’s defense attorneys, Jerry Berry and Amira Fox, to urge the judge to go below that sentence, a downward departure. They presented presenting testimony describing Sperry before and after his diagnosis of Parkinson’s in 2003, and dementia a few years later. They also presented experts who attributed his behavior to Mirapex.

Mirapex and Requip, which Sperry also had used in the past, are dopamine-agonists, which activate the dopamine receptors that are reduced in people with Parkinson’s disease. Dopamine agonists, combined with Stalevo, an L-Dopa medication for Parkinson’s disease that Sperry also took, are known to cause impulse-control problems, addictions to gambling, and hypersexuality -- an increased sexual desire.

The hearing, which began at 9 a.m., was halted after about five hours of testimony, when the prosecution objected to the defense’s neuro-pharmacological expert detailing about two dozen other similar incidents linked to Mirapex cited by experts on a government medical website.

Assistant state attorneys Steve Maresca and Mara Marzano asked for time to review those reports, and testimony and sentencing will conclude today, when Sperry also will testify.

So far, Sperry’s son and sister testified that his actions on that day were totally out of character. They and his former dental employees from Newark, Ohio, and a longtime lawyer friend, were shocked to hear of his arrest. They described the decline in Sperry, who is well-respected in his community as a dentist, a Navy veteran who taught dentistry in Vietnam, Rotarian and Boy Scout leader.

His dental hygienist, Lori Lee, testified she confronted Sperry, threatening to quit because she thought his love for his receptionist would lead to an affair, but he denied it was a sexual love. She testified the receptionist, Holly, quit after that.

Sperry’s neurologist, Dr. Michael Vickers and a psychologist who performed assessment tests, Dr. David Rawlings, testified about Sperry’s Parkinson’s disease and dementia and cognitive ability.

Vickers testified he weaned Sperry off Mirapex in 2007 after Sperry read about the side-effects and requested another drug. He testified the combination is known to cause impulse-control problems.

“In your opinion, do you think this act would have occurred if he had not been on Mirapex at the time?” Berry asked Vickers.

Vickers replied: “I think it’s unlikely.”

There are class-action lawsuits involving gambling, shopping and losing money, but prosecutors haven’t seen Mirapex used as a criminal defense.

Sperry’s wife, Brenda, testified she knew he was in love with receptionist, but had not heard about the prostitutes or affairs. She testified his sexual behavior changed after his diagnosis, and he liked to swim and walk around their condo nude, and other unusual behaviors.

Dr. Jonathan Lipman, a Tennessee neuro-pharmacologist, testified the impulse-control problems with Mirapex were initially attributed to Parkinson’s disease, until the manufacturer exhausted the population of Parkinson’s users and obtained approval to market the drug for restless-leg syndrome. He testified a “a large number” of those patients complained of hypersexuality and other impulse-control problems and that led the manufacturer realize the complaints weren’t due to Parkinson’s. It then issued a warning about the drug in 2006 and added a package insert warning the next year.

Throughout the day, Maresca, the lead prosecutor, focused on bringing out details of Sperry’s sex life that he admitted to his doctors. Those details made his hometown seem more of a Peyton Place — a place where residents have sordid secrets — than a small, quiet Ohio town.

Maresca also has tried to show Sperry is a malingerer, somone who is faking it.

Through Rawlings, Maresca showed Sperry was described as hyposexual, someone who hadn’t had sex with his wife or anyone since he was diagnosed in 2003, when he retired. But he’s now claiming to be hypersexual.

The teenage victim sat in court with his mother and is expected to testify today, when the defense rests and Maresca and Marzano present opening statements and witnesses, including a medical expert.

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