SNOWFLAKE — Long time chiropractor Wesley Bowman of Snowflake, who turns 74 in August, was indicted by a Navajo County grand jury on Oct. 27 of last year, charged with one count of sexual assault, a Class 2 Felony, and one count of sexual abuse, a Class 5 Felony. He raised an objection to the way the authorities presented the case to a grand jury and the two charges were dismissed.
However, on April 6, a grand jury handed up a new indictment charging Bowman with 15 felonies including eight charges of sexual abuse, Class 5 Felonies, five counts of sexual assault, Class 2 felonies, one count of kidnapping (restraining someone for a sexual purpose) a Class 2 Felony and one count of aggravated assault, a Class 4 Felony. The new aggravated assault charge alleges a temporary but substantial disfigurement, loss, or impairment of an organ, body part, or a fracture, according to the court’s electronic docket. Bowman had pleaded not guilty and is presumed by law to be innocent.
The dispute over the grand jury’s now-dismissed indictments provided a look into details about the allegations by the first two women who will not be named in this article.
The first complainant
The case started when a woman who resides in Flagstaff contacted the Snowflake Taylor Police Department in March 2019 and alleged that Bowman sexually assaulted her during chiropractic treatment 25 years earlier, that it happened one time within a two year span between Jan. 1, 1993 and Dec. 31, 1994 when the woman was 16 or so years old. She had been treated by Bowman before without incident she told officers, and continued with treatment afterwards before finally stopping treatment altogether.
The woman then contacted the Flagstaff Police Department with the same complaint and told the Flagstaff authorities that her report to STPD was not “progressing fast enough.” She reported that she was asked by Bowman to remove her clothes, except her panties and assaulted her.
The case underscores the difficulties in prosecuting and defending a decades-old sex crime allegation without physical evidence, without a firm date it allegedly happened, without any witnesses beside the two persons present, and without any admission by the suspect. Despite all that, it may be an accurate account of what happened, observe forensic specialists who regularly deal with these kinds of “delayed” reports, as the authorities call them. Bowman has pleaded not guilty and denies the allegations.
A very relevant question is why the alleged victim waited so long to report it, and that’s exactly what Det. Sgt. Salli O’Hair from the Navajo County Sheriff’s Office criminal investigations unit asked her. It may be noted that the case ended up with NCSO after Flagstaff authorities claimed it was outside their jurisdiction and the STPD didn’t have a lot to go on, but they referred the matter for prosecution anyway. That’s when the detective sergeant with NSCO took over the investigation and interviewed the woman at a Flagstaff police station.
The woman told the detective that she waited this long because she was trying to forget about it, thought maybe it was “something she did” to provoke it, according to O’Hair’s testimony to a grand jury. The woman recalled that in 2018 she attended a conference of some sort and the speaker there had said something which made “memories all come back to her,” she told the detective. These statements may very will be true. She also remarked that she has “second guessed herself” about whether it actually happened.
Another question from the detective: Did the woman tell anybody about it? The answer was yes, and O’Hair interviewed the persons the alleged victim said she had told. The folks interviewed said that the woman had told them about it only within the last six months or so and in general terms, without detail, that the woman said that she had been assaulted.
The second complainant
A second woman alleged that Bowman touched her private parts through her clothing during a treatment in April 2019, and she made a formal complaint to the Arizona Board of Chiropractic Examiners. She told the board that she went to Bowman in order to get a doctor’s certification that her planned breast reduction procedure was medically necessary, not a cosmetic procedure. It is presumed that health insurance may cover part or all of the reduction if it was medically needed.
The second woman claims that Bowman touched her bare breasts and rubbed her private parts over her clothing. If true, a doctor touching the breasts of a patient who was there to get a professional opinion about her breasts probably is no crime, but the alleged touching private parts over clothing could constitute sexual abuse, if that happened. Bowman says that never happened, and it was with the patient’s permission that he had touched her at all.
During an August 28, 2019 hearing on the matter, the chiropractic board noted that Bowman’s medical records don’t indicate permission from the patient and one board member mused that such sloppiness in recording or even communicating with a patient is a mistake that a brand new chiropractor might make, not one with the long practice history of Bowman.
In the end, the board and Bowman signed a “Consent Agreement,” that placed Bowman on two years of probation and required him to take continuing education about communicating with patients and the proper recording of medical information. The September 16, 2019 Consent agreement says that a patient alleged that “during Respondent’s (Bowman’s) examination of her he exposed and touched her hips and buttocks in a way that made her feel uncomfortable, and that he lifted her shirt and unhooked her bra without her consent. Respondent (Bowman) denies the allegations in (patient’s) complaint...”
The first two charges
Two attorneys have appeared in the case as defense counsel; they are Todd K. Coolidge of the Coolidge Law Firm, PLLC from Chandler, and a local lawyer. The prosecutor was Ms. Lee White, deputy Navajo County attorney. The case was assigned to Hon. Ralph Hatch, but he asked the presiding judge to assign it to another judge because Hatch has an unidentified conflict. It was learned last week that Judge Hatch will be stepping down from the bench after his long tenure there, and it seems the presiding judge of that court, Dale P. Nielson is the assigned judge.
In the meantime, Attorney Coolidge asked the court to dismiss the case or at least send it back to the grand jury so they could be provided with truthful and accurate information which Coolidge claims they were not. It has long been said that authorities can persuade a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich, and the rules of court allow a case to be sent back to the grand jury if a party believes that the jurors didn’t get the whole story or if something improper caused them to indict.
In this case, the defense claims that the NCSO Det. Sgt. Salli O’Hair “provided false, misleading and non-relevant prejudicial testimony on multiple occasions,” according to the Dec. 31, 2020 motion. Specifically, the detective sergeant told the jurors that the chiropractic board “suspended” Bowman’s license for six months after the second woman complained, and that he was ordered to install video cameras, but neither of those things are true, the lawyer urges. Further, that the jurors asked about the consent agreement between the board and Bowman but a copy was not provided to them.
Also, that the detective was allowed to tell the jurors about local gossip concerning Bowman’s love life, and about “odd” practices, that even if true, are irrelevant and prejudicial. Moreover, defense counsel avers that Prosecutor White gave the jurors an incorrect definition of what the law is about sexual assault, saying that sexual touching over clothing counts as a sexual assault.
White filed a spirited response on Jan. 28 urging that “The State did not present false or misleading evidence to the grand jury and gave a fair presentation of the evidence to the grand jury.” She claims that Bowman’s consent agreement with the chiropractic board was a type of suspension, and that she didn’t give an incorrect definition of sexual assault. As to that last part, observed White, it doesn’t matter anyway because the grand jury declined to indict Bowman for sexual assault against the second woman, choosing instead a lesser sexual abuse charge.
The new charges
Court records show that the first two charges were dismissed on April 6, the same day as the new, 15-count indictment was filed. It is unknown whether the court ever got to the merits of the defense motion to dismiss, or if the state itself asked the judge to do that in light of the new charges. It is also yet unknown if the 15 new charges involve women other besides the first two complainants.
Bowman’s next court date, an initial pretrial conference is set for June 28.