Florence Fruehan did not offer any words to explain his conduct this afternoon as he tendered a plea to a felony count of battery on a person 65 or older.
Circuit Judge Terence Perkins asked him if he had any questions. At first Fruehan, who seemed dazed by the moment and looking away from the judge as he stood before him, immobile, didn’t respond. The judge asked him again. Fruehan shook his head, no.
Several people familiar with or directly involved in the case had turned out, including investigators and a top official from a local organization sheltering victims of domestic violence. But Fruehan did not make a statement–no apologies, no explanation for why women, his own patients of long date, accused him of groping them inappropriately during routine visits or requests for prescriptions at his Palm Coast office.
He had no reason to: the plea agreement was all but signed by the judge. When defendants address the court in those circumstances, it’s usually because the sentence is still dependent on the judge’s discretion and they’re hoping to sway the judge to be lenient, though there are times when defendants feel they must address their victims. In this case, the disposition of the case was arranged between the State Attorney’s Office, the victims, and Fruehan, with the judge left to ratify the agreement. So Fruehan kept silent, a statement in itself.
Fruehan had faced criminal charges four times before since 1995, including a 2006 charge of molesting a patient–a second-degree felony. But the charges were dropped at every turn, until two felony counts of battery the sheriff filed in January. Fruehan initially pleaded not guilty and appeared to be preparing a defense all the way to trial. That changed abruptly this week, when he agreed to a plea agreement.
He pleaded no contest to one felony count. The second count was dropped, as was a misdemeanor charge. He was sentenced to 24 months of probation. He may terminate the probation at the 12-month mark, assuming he meets all the conditions of probation, which include a mental health evaluation and treatment, if recommended.
Fruehan may not have any kind of contact with any of the victims who came forward–not just the one victim named in the felony count to which he pleaded. But the agreement also stipulates that the state may not bring any new charges against Fruehan involving any of those victims named in state attorney documents so far. The restriction does not apply to new allegations involving patients or individuals who have not yet been named and may come forward.
Perkins withheld adjudication. That means if Fruehan fulfills the terms of his probation, he will not be considered a convicted felon. That would change should he violate his probation.
Fruehan sat, stone-faced, looking dead ahead, in the last row of the courtroom’s benches, waiting for the judge to arrive. When his case was called he joined his attorney, Warren Lindsey, at a podium in front of Perkins. He did not change demeanor. There were no formalities, no greetings.
“Would it be appropriate to refer to you as Dr. Fruehan?” Perkins asked him.
“I would appreciate it,” Fruehan said.
Fruehan still has the degrees that credentialed him to be a physician. But he no longer has the medical license allowing him to practice. He surrendered it as part of a deal with the state Department of Health following an investigation into alleged sexual improprieties. That was the case that, along with reporting on it, led to the Flagler Sheriff’s Office’s renewed investigation of Fruehan (after a deputy, no longer with the agency, had taken a report from the same woman but not gone beyond that.) This time the case was assigned to veteran detectives, who developed the case that led to several charges.
The cases mirrored each other: female patients would go to Fruehan’s office, and he would find various pretenses to end up alone with them in a room, where he would allegedly grope or touch them inappropriately.
Perkins asked him how he was pleading.
“No contest, your honor,” Fruehan said in a barely audible voice, though he’d never been known to have a quiet voice, or to be less than voluble.
The judge went through the conditions of the plea, asking clarifying questions about the medical license, which Fruehan may not regain. He is barred from practicing medicine or in any medically related field from now on, even after the end of his probation.
Individuals on probation are required to stay in the county where they are serving their probation, absent permission from the court. Fruehan’s attorney said his client lives near the Volusia County line, and that he was seeking to have the freedom to travel to Volusia, Duval and St. Johns counties. The judge granted permission. The attorney then said Fruehan wanted to take his 21-year-old daughter to a university in North Carolina to help her move in between Aug. 24 and Aug. 26. “I do not have a specific objection to that but the devil is in the details,” the judge said, deferring the details to Fruehan’s probation officer.
Felons are usually finger-printed after their plea and sentence. He was not. It’s not clear why. He was directed to have his first meeting with a probation officer, and he walked out, as relatively free as he’d walked in: except for the two hours of his booking at the Flagler County jail on January 16, he is not expected to step foot in there again, if he abides by the terms of his probation.
“Our detectives have done a great job working this case and working with the State Attorney’s Office to seek justice for the victims,” Sheriff Rick Staly said in a release his office issued shortly after the hearing. “I hope the victims see this as a positive outcome and find peace knowing that he will never practice medicine again.”
How many more molesters is Perkins going to show leniency towards?
Thomas Conrad says
He was a very good doctor.
David S. says
What a damn joke. Whats wrong with the justice system in this county. As I always said Flagler County is the armpit of Central Florida it stinks…………
Probation for him … What a joke .. Is he better than anyone else ???
How did he only get probation? I just don’t get it.
He should of lost his license. He also should be going to prison.
David S steflik says
This is why we keep having repeat offenders and why crime is so high. Why don’t the liberals embrace prayer in the schools and everywhere we can have it–it does encourage people to be better. Flagler County has surely changed with so many people moving in from the north.
Thomas… and a pervert /rapist
Willy Boy says
One moment your Honor, while I remove my Rolex, before you slap my wrist.
Palm Coaster says
Mia-he DID lose his medical license.
Where are they now? Where are all his supporters saying that the woman lied? He admitted to it. He should’ve gotten jail time though.
Special thanks to the brave women that came forward and got this sex offender out of his position of power.
Donna Heiss says
This doctor saved my life.
Ben Hogarth says
White – check
Male – check
Affluent – check
Flagler County – check
Pretty sure there is a separate prosecution and sentencing guiding document for people who fit this profile.
We need justice reform yesterday. Judges and magistrates should have some discretion over discovery process and certain court procedures… but sentencing should not be one of them. There shouldn’t be wide ranging mandatory minimums and maximums. It’s insane and promotes neither justice nor “fairness.”
How counterintuitive and entirely undermining to leave such wide discretion to any one person. And this isn’t touching on the issue of bonding which is entirely unfair to poor persons.
Tragic. My sympathies for the victims known and unknown.
Was poking all he ever did? For poking I would just poke his arse and leave a mark. A deep scratch!
He did many good deeds but had a touch of arrogance.
Perhaps Florence Fruehan suffered from “Boy Named Sue Syndrome.”
White, Male, Affluent, exactly why he was accused. What a shame, we’ve lost an excellent doctor.
Susi Kling says
Dr. Fruehan was my Doctor since 2007 when I moved here. I found him to be an extremely great diagnostic doctor. He saved my life when one doctor misdiagnosed me. She said I had a pulled back muscle, gave me muscle relaxers and sent me on my way back to work at the garden center at Lowes. Within 2 days I could barely breath. My husband took me to urgent care as he used Dr. Dorman, I saw Dr. Fruehan in about half an hour I was admitted to the hospital. I had severe pneumonia had I had not gone to Dr. Fruehan that day Lord only knows what would have happened. He also found when I started shaking a few years later that I was suffering from essential tremors. I also have lupus. This man took care of me like I was family! Yes he could be harsh at times but it also showed me he cared. I use Dr. Dorman now but I do miss Dr. Fruehan and hope he is doing well. You will be missed by this patient Klingon!
Name (required) says
It’s interesting to see how people personally judge these situations for themselves. Actually funny, that In the absence of partisan politics, some people can assume Soo confidently, but say, if he were a Supreme Court judge candidate that fits their agenda.. well, those women are all liars. What a hypocritical world we live in. Lol. People need to spend less time obsessing over their view of the world through rose colored glasses. Fact. Take a walk, reflect. It’s ironic how people prioritize and formulate their “values” these days.
Fruehan fan says
As a young female patient as well as a nurse that worked with him for several years I can’t believe this. So so disheartening that Anyone now a days, can get upset with a man, make up whatever they want, and completely ruin lives and reputations without any proof but “their word”. I saw that man save several peoples lives over the years and not once in all that time ever felt unsafe around him. #freefruehan
Marilyn Vischio says
He isVery good diagnosing! Saved my husband’s life
Staten Island never forgets says
Maybe Keith can get a job with him if he ever gets out. Would be fitting u made a positive comment about him.
That POS. Should have got jail time it happened to us at a appointment back in the early 90tis he said to my wife you are wearing nice jeans and then he started to rubbing her butt while saying nice jeans. I was going to report it but we just got in town and not many doctors in town then I used him one ore 2 more and then ran like hell
Here’s a man who apparently was a very good physician if he liked you.
Had he checked his personality and practiced some impulse control, he wouldn’t
be going through these disgraceful proceedings.
Treat everyone with courtesy. Set and respect societal boundaries!
Live by the golden rule.
Everyone can learn an important lesson from this.
Richie s says
He was a terrific doctor kept both my mom and dad is good health in there 90s . Actual make house visits went they were dying , checking up on them. My mom an dad loved the doctor. I was very fond of the doctor an still very grateful to him.
He was my Doctor for many years and the never did anything like he was accused of doing to these other women. The fact that his wife stood by him when she could have gained so much more momentarily by leaving speaks volumes. May God Bless Doctor Freuhan and his family!
I saw him one time when my regular doctor was out of town. This man scared me to death. I could not wait to get away from him.
I don’t think you “Fruehan Fans” understand what happened. This has nothing to do with how good of a doctor he was. He admitted and pled out to a judge that he was guilty of wrong doing. ADMITTED!!!! and even if you still don’t believe that. he had accusations of the same thing years ago. So this GREAT DOCTOR you speak of, was actually a disgusting human being, who used his medical license to cop a feel on women. im glad he saved peoples lives, but that does not change the fact that he took an oath as a Doctor, and went against that oath. he is a pathetic human being. he got a slap on the wrist if you ask me, people are in prison for less!!
I can’t say he was not a good Dr. He probably was. Molestation is wrong regardless of your status.My children say I am a good DAD, if I molest someone will O get just probation, probably not. What a great white justice system.
He was my doc for about 15 years, and I got good care. He diagnosed a few things of import, which surprised me sometimes at how much reading he must have done to keep up on medical developments. Admittedly I cringed at times when he called loudly across the office space with subject matter which seemed it should have been more private to the patients in question. I never observed behavior such as that with which he was charged, but I’m a male and didn’t get a hint of other tendencies.
I hope he learns to be contrite and figure it’s good that he can’t practice medicine again. Otherwise I wish him well.