Florence Fruehan, the former physician who had a thriving practice in Palm Coast, is set to plea to a felony count of battery on a woman 65 or older at a court hearing Friday, the result of allegations that he sexually groped patients in his office.
The plea agreement–which may still change, depending on the judge’s actions–would result in one of the two felony counts against Fruehan, 60, being dropped, along with a misdemeanor count. He would plead guilty or no contest to the remaining felony count. He would be sentenced to 24 months’ probation, which he can terminate after 12 months should he meet all the conditions. He would also be required to have a mental health evaluation, have no contact with his victims, and never again practice medicine.
The hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. before Circuit Judge Terence Perkins. The judge may choose to withhold adjudication. That’s not uncommon in cases involving individuals guilty of their first third-degree felony, though Fruehan has faced numerous charges in the past–misdemeanors and a grave felony. Until now, he’d managed to have the charges dropped every time. He faced misdemeanor battery charges in 1995 and 1996. He faced a sexual battery complaint in 2006, a second-degree felony, that mirrored the issues raised in more recent complaints. The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office also charged him criminally in late 2018, but the State Attorney had to drop the charge because the statute of limitations expired.
Though that’s not part of the plea agreement, Fruehan will have to relinquish his seat on the East Flagler Mosquito Control board. Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended him from the three-member elected panel by executive order in January.
Fruehan’s plea is the culmination of a case that began with an investigation by the state health department into allegations of improprieties by Fruehan toward female patients. The long-time patient, 54 at the time, had gone to Furehan’s office (Palm Coast Urgent Care) to refill a prescription to control seizures. Fruehan provided the prescription, then took the woman into a room without anyone else present and allegedly groped her breasts after asking her if she’d had a mammogram. The incident would turn out to be a template for at least four documented similar incidents women reported to the sheriff’s office after the sheriff re-opened an investigation of Fruehan. Other women spoke to the investigators but not for the record.
The state investigation led to Fruehan surrendering his physician’s license, ending the state’s involvement–but not the sheriff’s. The local investigation continued, pointing to several alleged victims with similar accounts, and a misdemeanor charge against Fruehan in late September (the charge dropped because of the statute of limitations). Months later the sheriff’s office followed by the State Attorney filed the felony charges. Fruehan, of 15 Flagship Drive in Palm Coast, was booked at the Flagler County jail on Jan. 16 and within two hours posted bail on $10,000 bond.
The progression of the case in court was as revealing as the sheriff’s investigation.
Assistant State Attorney Melissa Clark filed a motion seeking to introduce what’s called “similar fact evidence” at trial, if it would go that far, so that even if Fuehan was on trial for one charge involving one woman, the prosecutor could introduce facts relating to four women to show the pattern behind Fruehan’s behavior. Fruehan, represented by attorney Warren Lindsay, filed a motion to object, and an additional motion to suppress various communications between Fruehan and law enforcement.
Some of those communications included “controlled phone calls,” or recorded calls, where Fruehan would be at one end and his alleged victim on the other, being recorded by law enforcement (with the victim’s agreement), or even law enforcement play-acting the role of a victim’s relative, as was the case in two instances.
The sheriff’s detective Annie Conrad was the lead investigator throughout. One individual, the boyfriend of a woman who alleged she’d been inappropriately touched by Fruehan, agreed to wear a wire–a recording device–and attempt to have a conversation with Fruehan. The man and Fruehan did so in Fruehan’s office. Weeks later, Cpl. George Hristakopoulos, also a detective working with Conrad, pretended to be the adult son of one of the victims and confronted Fruehan over the phone.
Fruehan’s motion to suppress those calls describes them as an “egregious violation” of his right to counsel. Fruehan’s attorney said the conduct was so “obviously outrageous” that the judge should dismiss the entire case. The state counter-argued that all those conversations took place last fall, while Fruehan’s “right to counsel under the Sixth Amendment did not begin until he was formally charged on January 9, 2019.”
On July 10, Perkins granted a hearing time to hear all the motions. That’s actually what was scheduled for Friday–until Fruehan, somewhere along the line, decided that he did not want to go to trial, and on Wednesday agreed to the plea agreement.
Lock him up! This man took advantage of multiple elderly helpless woman. He is the same as a rapist, ,maybe worse considering his position of power! He is the worst kind of human on the planet and deserves to serve many years behind bars which will hopefully result in him being sexually mistreated by the inmates for retaliation of the many woman he abused!
Welcome to Flagler County, where sexual predators, molesters and the like get off with probation, while their victims must live with the aftereffects forever.
Grateful Dad says
To the victims of his assaults, I am terribly sorry for what you endured. To the brave women that brought this POS to justice I am very grateful. Having been a 20+ year resident of this community we have seen and heard his abhorrent behavior firsthand. I can tell you if you had worked in this community as a bartender, server, or any other service oriented or healthcare position you have most likely had contact with him. I recall an incident at HB where he thought his antics would be protected by security when I confronted him about his behavior and treatment of staff.
He may have had some talents as a physician as many previous posts mentioned, but that is not a license to be a first rate a-hole and bully. Hope the judge is very harsh and extremely rude to him.
Mary - Longtime Resident says
Glad to hear he cannot practice medicine ever again. His behavior is a disgrace to the profession. 2 years probation with reduction to 12 months possibly is ridiculous!
Probation? He severely abused his position, and he gets Probation? SAD SAD SAD. Maybe they will give him his medical license back as well……………..Herein lies the problem. We have laws, but when people are found to have broken them, the punishment is a Joke. Maybe we need some MORE laws so the ones of us who choose to obey them can live a more onerous life, meanwhile those who have no desire to follow them continue their modus operandi.
Concrrned Citizen says
If the sentencing judge is reading this.
This man is a pervert who abused his medical privlidges in order to personally satisfy himself. He took an oath to be a physician and violated that oath on every level. Taking advantage of women in need of medical attention is one of the most despicable acts you can committ.
if you are any sort of respectable judge you will refuse to accept the sentencing deal. And then put pressure on the DA and SA to come up with more fitting tersms. If not rest assured we will rise up and make sure you don’t get reappointed.
Pleas and probation are for first time offenders who committ minor offenses and have a chance at turning things around. Not for some “esteemed” member of the community to get a second chance on. He ruined patients lives. Why does he get a do over?
Of course knowing that Flagler County is a cess pit of the good ol boy system I shouldn’t have expected less.
Move on Doc. Thanks for taking such great care of our Family all those years.
David T Schaefer says
What a damn joke. Flagler’s finest idiot along with the good ole boy system where criminals get off scott free.
WILLIAM J NELSON says
He (Fruehan) couldn’t have a better Judge. After all, this guy (Judge Perkins) allows attempted murderers to go free (basically) and let’s others off the hook after committing terrible crimes.
CB from PC says
Voters, Make sure you remember to remove Judge Perkins next election. He also gave probarion to Sam Andolina, who molested an 13 year old autistic girl. Now, the taxpayers have to house the POS because he can’t find a place to live.
Well cry me a river.
Mary Rhoads says
what a joke…the very last thing a judge will do is conduct a fair hearing focused on facts…they’re in bed with attorneys…or on yacht, at resort…maybe enjoying other perks with attorneys. The last person/s majority of judges represent are the victims or citizens in their community. Corruption is ignored or overlooked and no one cares. Very sad. Fruehan was and will always be a sexual predator who needs to behind bars for 24 months..not on probation. But, he had a crafty attorney who was likely pals with the judge.
steven hannan says
Perkins reputation of handing out probation slips like candy to local felony offenders who attack our children, mentally handicap, women, and elderly is the anthesis of Justice. Someone please get him off the bench!
Jessica C says
I still think Dr. Fruehan is the best Diagnostician in the area. The community has lost a good doctor. Our entire family misses having him available. He said she said and I believe Dr. Fruehan! The police should use so many man hours on rapists and children abductions !
Remember the Judge’s name (Perkins) and when election time comes, vote him out! Make your voice heard!
THURSTON HOWEL III says
This has been nothing but a WITCH HUNT! I have been his patient for 20 yrs and now I am left without a Dr., because of HATERS! This man did a great job caring for the sick and he got treated just like Trump gets treated-UNFAIRLY! Don’t worry Dr., you will beat this. Thanks for many years of great care!
Do we vote on keeping these judges in office? If so, we need to vote him out as he has a history of allowing predators to get off scott free!!!!
Jessica C, if you havent been following the story, Fruehan is a RAPIST of the worst kind.
Thurston, I also was one of his patients as long as you were. He was good at diagnosing some things and bad at others. I was anemic for many years and he did nothing. It took a blood specialist 4 years to get my blood count back to normal enduring many months of 5 hr transfusions of iron because he did nothing about it. When my hemoglobin was down to a 5 was when Dr. Fruehan told me to drive myself to the hospital and sign myself in. I believe the women. (won’t say anymore about that)
joan difrancisco says
he was a dr. that when you were sick; he called you to see how you were doing!i i neave had a uncomfortible felling with him he was not afraide to call you up to see if you were doing o k had him as a dr. over 18 or 20 yrs. i think some people want to hear them self talk! lets all kick him when he idown!!! to say he is a rapist of the worst kind is WOW do you have proof people love to hear themself talk!!
i am so sorry we are all so perfect!!
I and my husband were patients of Dr. Frueheuhan’s for 20 years….He was a talented diagnostician and a caring man..
As stated in former comments he had called us at 11:00PM to inquire as to how one of us was doing during an illness…
He saved my husband’s life, after a misdiagnosis by another physician,,,
He was not one to baby you with his bedside manor,,This rubbed some people the wrong way….I wish he was still an option for my healthcare!