ENLawyers explain potential cases stemming from alleged conduct of Johns Hopkins Gynecologist Dr. Nikita A. Levy

Update: Dr. Levy reportedly committed suicide on February 19, 2013, while facing the charges explained below.

As reported by the Baltimore Sun, it is alleged that former Hopkins doctor Nikita A. Levy’s filmed his patients in various states of undress.  If you have not heard of this horrific allegation, a general discussion of the case can be read in the Baltimore Sun. Dr. Levy’s alleged actions potentially constitute a form of sexual assault against every patient he filmed in this manner. Moreover, Dr. Levy, and perhaps  others are guilty of possessing, manufacturing and distributing child pornography to the extent that any of the victims were under age 18.

Who are the Victims?

All who were filmed are victims of sexual assault. Victims of sexual assault have rights which are vitally important for Dr. Levy’s victims to understand. Moreover, these victims have important privacy interests in the images and video obtained and they have the right to meaningfully participate in any criminal case that may result from the ongoing criminal investigation. Additionally, law enforcement officers have certain important obligations to these victims throughout the criminal investigation. All these victims may have civil causes of action against Dr. Levy’s estate and others.

What is the law governing Dr. Levy’s conduct?

Any person whose image was captured while that person was under 18 is a victim of federal child pornography statutes. 18 USC 2255 criminalizes the manufacture, possession, and/or distribution of any image depicting a person under age 18. The statutes impose harsh penalties on anyone in the chain of custody for such images. Moreover, 18 USC 2252, known as Marsha’s law, imposes civil liability on any person in the chain of custody of the images resulting in “strict liability” for any person who appears anywhere in the chain of custody. While Dr. Levy is the obvious target under Marsha’s law, liability may also be found against any organization who “possessed” (even unknowingly) the images and any other person who received them.

Moreover, the State of Maryland has criminalized these actions as well under Maryland Ann. Code 11-207. Under this statute, it is illegal to possess such materials which “cause, induce, solicit, or knowingly allow a minor to engage as a subject in the production of obscene matter.” Regardless of whether Dr. Levy faces state or federal charges, the victims have an undeniable role in the process.

What can I do?

In addition, as child-victims of crime, Dr. Levy’s (alleged) underage victims are entitled to special victim rights protections designed to protect the child-victims against the secondary victimization that often results from the legal process.

As former prosecutors, we are keen on protecting the rights of victims of crimes, and our firm understands the complex nature of legal issues that will be faced by anybody touched by this tragedy—especially the victims. We would urge the victims to find the support they need to ensure their rights are protected.