Man testifies Blankenburg abuse started at age 9
Expert says thousands of photos seized from pediatrician's residence are examples of 'child erotica'
HAMILTON — A fourth man testified Friday, Oct. 9, against Dr. Mark Blankenburg, a Hamilton pediatrician accused of molesting young patients and paying them hush money.
The trial was in its fifth day in Butler County Common Pleas Court.
The man, now 24, described how Blankenburg first fondled him at the age of 9. He said the molestation continued, an estimated 30 to 40 times, until he moved away at the age of 15.
He said Blankenburg played a “game” with his private area and all the time the doctor had a “big smile, looking right in my eyes.”
“He (Blankenburg) would take my (private area) and say ‘shaky, shaky,’ ” the man testified.
After the first encounter, the man said Blankenburg gave him $10 and told him to go buy a toy.
“I didn’t like it at all, I felt uncomfortable,” the man said.
Earlier this week, three men also testified they were molested by the doctor as teenage patients, but continued to go back to the doctor because he gave them prescriptions for drugs and thousands of dollars.
During cross-examination, defense attorney Michael Shanks said the man’s medical records did not indicate that he visited Blankenburg’s office 30 to 40 times between the ages of 9 and 15.
Also testifying Friday was the grandmother of one of the accusers who said she called Blankenburg’s office to confront him after her 16-year-old grandson came home with pills and money.
A prosecution expert witness, Dr. Sharon Cooper, a forensic pediatrician, was on the stand for four hours Friday. She said photos of area high school athletes found in Blankenburg’s residence are consistent with “child erotica.”
The trial continues at 9 a.m. Monday.
Witness testifies about thousands of photographs seized at Blankenburg’s home
After the last of four men allegedly abused by Hamilton pediatrician Dr. Mark Blankenburg took the stand Friday, Oct. 9, an expert witness described thousands of photos allegedly taken by the doctor as “child erotica.”
Dr. Sharon Cooper, the head of Developmental and Forensic Pediatrics, a North Carolina consulting firm that provides medical care, training and expert witness experience in child maltreatment cases, as well as medical care for children with disabilities, pointed to photos of the posterior of a football player as being consistent with child erotica. She also said the same of a wrestler photo with his legs spread and a shirtless soccer player — the subject of a 2-inch stack of photos — lying in the grass.
She testified in Butler County Common Pleas Court that many of the photos focused on body parts of young men, showing no faces. Some of the subjects were captured hundreds of times and displayed in photo albums.
An adolescent boy pushing a cart at the local grocery store was the subject of about 40 photographs, approximately 30 of them focused on his back side. Cooper noted again, they were consistent with child erotica.
Cooper said some photos on their own may not appear to be suspect, but put together in a collection of thousands of the same type of photos, they become child erotica.
“Child erotica is any type of visual depiction, written depiction or physical object,” that are used for sexual gratification, she said.
The photos identified by Cooper were seized during a search of Blankenburg’s home on Susan Drive.
The defense team spent much of Friday taking shots at her credibility and narrowing specifically which subjects she could discuss in testimony.
Cooper’s work includes dealing with numerous national and international investigative agencies on cases of Internet crimes against children. She told Judge Keith Spaeth she has testified in more than 300 court cases, but during arguments out of the presence of the jury, Assistant Prosecutor Lance Salyers said he would ask Cooper to give a description of child erotica and instructed her to determine whether thousands of photos of high school athletes found in Blankenburg’s home are examples of it.
Spaeth ruled Cooper could testify whether the photos were examples of child erotica, but said she could not make reference to the motive of the person who took them.
The collection of photos are proof of “a particular sexual attraction to teenage boys,” said Salyers.
Blankenburg and his twin brother, Dr. Scott Blankenburg, a Fairfield pediatrician, were on the sidelines at Hamilton High School athletic events for years taking pictures with league-issued passes. The brothers handed out packets of photos to athletes at the end of the season.
Cooper also described the behavior of sexually abused children, stating many have long-term problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and poor performance in school. They also may abuse drugs and alcohol, and may have criminal difficulties later in life, she said.
Three of the accusers described abusing drugs and alcohol, and one, a 29-year-old man, is serving an 81-year prison sentence for a botched bank robbery and shooting a police officer.
Earlier Friday, the grandmother of one of the accusers took the stand, saying her grandson became withdrawn early in life.
The grandson, a 29-year-old man who is serving a prison sentence, testified Thursday he was fondled by Blankenburg as a child. He said the act progressed to oral sex when he was a teenager and said he had a seven-year relationship with the doctor from the ages of 18 to 25.
The man said he did it for drugs and money.
The grandmother choked back tears as she remembered letting her grandson go into the examination room alone.
She said her grandson was an energetic, happy-go-lucky boy until he became withdrawn around the age of 10. In his teenage years, he became rebellious, she said. On one occasion, the grandmother said she remembers denying her grandson money, and he told her he would get it from the “doc.”