Ex-child psychiatrist gets 40 years for sexual assault of a child

Charles Fischer after being found guilty of sexual assault of a child. Nov. 16, 2016 (KXAN Photo)
Charles Fischer after being found guilty of sexual assault of a child. Nov. 16, 2016 (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Dr. Charles Fischer was found guilty on multiple charges of sexual assault of a child, Wednesday afternoon. Thursday, he was sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Fischer, 64, was also found guilty of indecency with a child by contact and indecency with a child by exposure.

The ex-child psychiatrist was fired from the Austin State Hospital in 2011 when the accusations surfaced. His attorneys deny the allegations, saying many of Fischer’s patients suffered from “sexual identity issues,” which made him a target.

Prosecutors argued Fischer took advantage of his young, mentally ill patients and his authority over them as their psychiatrist, to prey on the most vulnerable of victims.

As many as 11 accusers were identified to possibly testify against the ex-psychiatrist. The first of the victims was the only witness to take the stand on Oct. 25. The victim, now 29-years-old, testified that when he was 16, Dr. Fischer molested him on various occasions during therapy sessions in his office at the hospital.

Fischer was found not guilty on charges of aggravated sexual assault of a child.

The jury spent two days deliberating the verdicts, after hearing more than three weeks of testimony in the case. Jurors move now to the sentencing phase of the trial. Fischer is eligible for probation, but prosecutors said he is a flight risk and he should not be eligible.

The jury heard Wednesday evening from three witnesses in sentencing. The prosecution called two Austin police officers to testify about Fischer’s public lewdness arrest in January 2013, just seven months after bonding out of jail on the child sex assault cases.

Prosecutor Mary Farrington said this arrest is evidence Fischer believes the rules do not apply to him.

The defense called only one witness in sentencing, Fischer’s younger brother, Dr. Richard Fischer. Fischer’s brother became emotional on the witness stand when asked whether he will remain close with his brother if he were to be released on probation in this sentence:

Gerry Morris, Fischer’s defense attorney: “If Charles is released, either on probation or after serving a penitentiary sentence, will you still be close to him as you are now?”
Dr. Richard Fischer: “Yes sir, of course,” he responded.
Gerry Morris: “Will you help him and support him for the rest of his life?”
Dr. Richard Fischer: “Yes, sir.”

The jury will begin deliberations on Fischer’s sentence on Thursday at 10 a.m.

The sentences range, depending on each charge, between two and 10 years, or two and 20 years for each charge. Judge Karen Sage will then decide to issue the sentences concurrently or consecutively.

Members of the mental health community in attendance at Fischer’s verdict told KXAN they hope something good will come out of this case when it comes to “trauma informed care.”

“It’ll fuel us to promote even more awareness of trauma and the impact it has on young people and giving young people a voice that will be taken seriously,” said licensed psychologist, Elizabeth Minne.

“Young people who are so disregulated that they’re having to be hospitalized, are very often experiencing trauma or have histories of psychological trauma, so they kind of grow up in these environments where being victimized is normalized for them,” added Minne. “They don’t realize that they can speak out against someone who is mistreating them because in their world, it’s a very normal and typical thing.”

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