Former dentist apologizes for sex act with teen, gets 10 years in prison

David Sperry

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David Sperry

— A Collier Circuit Court judge rejected a 68-year-old Naples man’s defense that his Parkinson’s and dementia medications compelled him to molest a teenage boy and sentenced him Thursday to 10 years in a state prison.

Judge Fred Hardt adjudicated David Rees Sperry, a retired Ohio dentist, guilty of lewd and lascivious battery and also ordered him to serve five years of sex-offender probation after his release.

“He needs to be punished,” Hardt said after imposing his sentence. “He needs to be held accountable.”

Hardt ruled that defense attorneys Jerry Berry and Amira Fox had not proven that on April 3, 2007, Sperry could not appreciate the criminal nature of his actions when he grabbed a 14-year-old tourist on the nature trail at Lely Barefoot Beach, pulled down his pants, and performed a sex act on the teen.

That requirement was necessary for the judge to impose a downward departure from a prison sentence. The lowest permissible term for Sperry’s, which took into account his lack of a criminal record and this crime, was 7 ¾ years.

The judge cited the effect the crime had on the victim, who cried during his testimony, and his father and mother, who sobbed as they detailed the change in their son and asked that Sperry be punished and sent to prison. Due to the sexual nature of the crime, their names are not being published.

Hardt also cited Sperry’s medical records, his actions and denial after his arrest, and jail records involving his overnight stay.

“We’ve heard a lot about Dr. Sperry’s sexual history over a long period of time,” Hardt said of an affair with his dental receptionist, one with his female barber in Naples and picking up prostitutes in Ohio and Vietnam.

But the judge said he had to consider Sperry’s condition on April 3, 2007, and if he was impaired by Parkinson’s disease, dementia or the medications.

“It appears from the defendant’s own testimony that he did appreciate the criminal nature of his conduct and that it was wrong,” Hardt said of Sperry denying molesting one boy and grabbing another who got away, then invoking his right to remain silent until he spoke with an attorney.

The state’s medical expert, psychologist Dr. Michael J. Herkov of the University of Florida at Gainesville, testified the denial, inconsistent stories and no evidence of other behavior showing lack of control while on Mirapex led him to believe the drug didn’t cause Sperry’s actions.

Berry had argued for the maximum house arrest term, two years, followed by 13 years of sex-offender probation — under the conditions that Sperry never be left unattended, not leave his home except for medical appointments and give up his driver license.

Sperry had pleaded no contest on Monday to the second-degree felony, which is punishable by up to 15 years in a state prison. A second charge involving an 18-year-old boy already had been dropped.

He entered his plea the day of his jury trial, when he was to use an insanity defense based on Mirapex, which is the target of a class-action lawsuit and others alleging gambling and shopping addictions. But Sperry opted to have a sentencing hearing and left his sentence up to the judge, saying he’d understand medical evidence better than a jury.

The judge heard evidence and testimony over two days. The sentence he imposed was the one Assistant State Attorney Steve Maresca argued for.

Afterward, the boy, now 16, and his family declined comment. They are from Michigan and were vacationing in Naples at the time.

Sperry’s wife, Brenda, his sister, and son, cried and hugged him goodbye. Brenda Sperry sobbed uncontrollably, telling him, “Be strong, be strong. I’m so sorry.” Sperry’s sister handed Berry three pill bottles so Sperry would be able to have them at the jail.

Berry said he and Fox would discuss an appeal with the family.

Maresca said the victim and family were pleased with the sentence. Maresca noted the Mirapex defense wasn’t brought up until after DNA results linked Sperry to the crime.

“I find it insulting that a person would try to get out of their responsibility by saying a drug made me do it, when there’s no evidence in the record to support this frivolous defense,” Maresca said.

The sentence culminated a mini-trial filled with salacious details that included Sperry’s “high libido,” his affairs and picking up prostitutes. That was coupled with medical testimony about how a combination of drugs is known to cause impulse-control problems, including an increased sexual desire.

During Sperry’s testimony, he described his lack of control while on Mirapex and apologized to the boy, who sat in court with his parents and family.

“I’m deeply sorry …,” Sperry said, using the boy’s name. “This got out of hand. ... I can’t say enough to make up for it. It’s a terrible thing to go through, particularly for a young person.”

Sperry admitted his affairs, including one in Naples, prostitutes, his nudity, sex habits, and hallucinations.

The most emotional testimony came when the boy and his parents took the stand.

The boy described being confronted by Sperry, whose shorts exposed his private parts. Sperry said he’d help him find lizards, then pulled down his pants, although he twice asked him to stop before going into shock. When he said his parents were coming, Sperry stopped.

“This incident has affected me more mentally than physically,” the boy said, choking up and crying at times. “… It’s changed the way I look at people. I have no trust in people. … Still, to this day, I can’t get it out of my mind.”

He and his parents described how he underwent therapy and how it changed his relationship with them.

“… I want him to serve prison time because I want a message sent to the community that we’re not going to tolerate this,” the father said. “He’s got to stop.”

The mother also pushed for prison time, calling Mirapex an excuse for not taking responsibility. She cried, telling the judge she lives daily with the guilt of allowing her son, who was small and naïve for his age, to walk the nature trail that day. She added: “We no longer have the child that we had prior to this incident.”

© 2009 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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