The Trial of Dr. Toshiki Itoh

itohAssistant professor Toshiki Itoh, 47, of the UI pathology department went to trial this week for one charge of sexual assault in the third degree and two counts of physical assault causing bodily injury against his female lab assistant. Itoh has pled not guilty. He has been on paid administrative leave for the last two years with a salary of $93,000, according to Tom Moore, UI Media Relations Coordinator. His attorney, Patricia C. Kamath, has declined comment.

The lab assistant said that Itoh had beaten and sexually assaulted her for the last year and a half, according to the UI police report. Two particular incidents prompted her call on July 10, 2008. She claimed that Itoh beat her on July 8 when she reported the misuse of a lab microscope. She missed work on July 9 because of her injuries and when she reported to work on July 10, Itoh repeatedly punched her in the face with a closed fist for being absent the previous day. She also alleged that Itoh had been sexually assaulting her since January 1, 2007.

Itoh got his M.D and P.hD at Kumamoto University School of Medicine in Japan. He moved to California on a green card in 1999, where he did research at UC Berkeley until 2005, when he moved to Iowa City. Since then, he’s done research in the pathology department as an assistant professor. His name is still listed on the UI directory, his webpage still up with no indication of his leave status.

The trial began on Monday with jury selection. Since then the court has reconvened every day at 9am this week, with each gathering lasting until 4:30 in the afternoon.

Confession

Dr. Toshiki Itoh admitted he assaulted his female lab assistant during an audio-recorded police interview, a portion of which was played in court on Wednesday morning.

The interview that Prosecuting Attorney Elizabeth Beglin played in court was conducted on July 10 2008 in a med lab at the UI pathology department. UI police detectives Brian Meyer and Terry Bringman testified that they asked Itoh questions about whether or not he had physically assaulted his lab assistant.

“That actually [inaudible] and then actually that, I hit her several times, I told you,” Itoh replied to Meyer and Bringman in broken English.

Itoh is a Japanese foreign national who has moderate English comprehension, according to court documents. An interpreter appointed by the UI provost’s office was present during that interview so as to avoid language difficulties. But detectives Meyer and Bringman recalled in their testimony that Itoh rarely referred to the interpreter, and did not seem to need help answering their questions.

“We felt that he understood everything,” Bringman testified.

In another interview that took place on July 15 at the UI police department, Itoh again admitted to physically assaulting his lab assistant.

“He admitted to hitting her several times, breaking her glasses,” Bringman said, referring to the assault that occurred on July 8, “He demonstrated whacking her. Hitting her. I believe at one point he threw her into a wall.”

The lab assistant speaks

At approximately 2:10pm on Wednesday, Beglin called the alleged victim to the stand. She arrived in the courtroom, eyes wide, her nervous breathing audible over the microphone. After a brief conference with the judge and her interpreter, her testimony began.

The lab assistant, who is a Japanese foreign national in the U.S. on a visa, described her duties as Itoh’s lab assistant from 2006 to 2008.

In broken English, she said that Itoh made her work long hours, sometimes more than 40 hours a week, into the night, and through the weekend. During her time of employment in his lab, she had virtually no social life outside of work, saying that she simply had too much work to do. Itoh threatened to fire her on several occasions, and was often critical of her work. He would sometimes express himself in a normal tone of voice, but according to the lab assistant, would more often yell at her. Sometimes he would respond with violence.

“Sometimes he slap. Sometimes he hit my face. Sometimes he kick me,” the alleged vicitm said in court on Wednesday.

Itoh’s jaws were clenched while the alleged victim made these statements, and he would occasionally lean forward in his chair over a yellow legal pad, rapidly taking down notes.

July 8 2008

The lab assistant then described in vivid detail the assault that occurred on July 8. She claimed that Itoh struck her in the face after she reported the misuse of a lab microscope by a fellow employee.

The alleged victim claimed that before he hit her, Itoh said, “ You are not a good employee. You have no right to criticize.”

He then punched her in the face several times, the alleged victim said. She raised her hands to try to protect her face, but he managed to break her glasses, the lab assistant said.

“He used fist, not open hand,” she said.

After the physical assault, Itoh left the lab and went into his adjacent office.  She followed him into his office, where Itoh sexually assaulted her, the lab assistant testified.

“He put his hand under my shirt and brassiere and touched my breasts,” the lab assistant said.

Itoh left the office shortly after that, and she went home with a severe headache. She came into work in the morning the next day to help a student assistant with daily duties, but went home shortly after that to recover from her injuries.  She did not return to work until July 10.

July 10 2008

The lab assistant arrived at work on July 10 and began work on an ongoing experiment, she testified. Itoh arrived at the lab later, and began to hit her with his closed hand.

“Your attitude is ridiculous,” is what the lab assistant testified Itoh said to her on that occasion.

She left the lab and fled to med lab 1022, where she called the UI police on a non-emergency number.

“I didn’t want to disturb anyone,” she said.

Up to this point, she had not told anyone about the repeated instances of sexual and physical assault. She testified that she didn’t want to put her friends in a difficult situation and she was concerned at how her family would react to the news. She also didn’t want to lose her job.

The lab assistant is working in the states on an H1-b visa. According to her, the visa requires that she remain employed in a specific professional field during the duration of her stay in the states. Itoh was the sponsor of her visa, according to the testimony of University Healthcare physician Mark Graber on Tuesday.

So when Beglin asked the lab assistant why she didn’t contact the university sooner, she replied, “I chose police because I didn’t trust the university.”

She went on to say that the university invests a lot of money in professors and she was worried that she would lose her job.

“University doesn’t want to fire the professor. University wants to fire the employee,” she said, “Even now I don’t want to report to the university.”

IowaWatch.org contacted UI Media Relations Spokesperson Tom Moore at his home Wednesday night for a comment on these last remarks. Moore declined comment.

 

 

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