Former Chief Of Cardiology at Palo Alto VA Hospital Pleads Guilty to Sexual Battery

Cardiologist John Giacomini pleaded guilty March 8 to one count of felony abusive sexual contact, announced U.S. Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds.

Giacomini, 73, of Atherton, had practiced medicine and cardiology for over 30 years and from 1985 until 2018 was the Chief of the Cardiology Section at the VA Hospital in Palo Alto.

A federal grand jury had indicted Giacomini n March 2020, charging him with one count of abusive sexual contact. Giacomini pleaded guilty to the charge, which is a felony.

According to the plea agreement accepted by the U.S. District Judge Beth L. Freeman, Giacomini acknowledged he had, while in “a position of significant authority, prestige, and influence within the VA Healthcare System and at Stanford University, where he had a faculty appointment in the School of Medicine,” beginning in the fall of 2017, repeatedly subjected a subordinate doctor to unwanted and unwelcome sexual contact, to include hugging, kissing, and intimate touching while on VA premises.

The investigation was led by Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General, Special Agent in Charge Jason Root and Chief of Police of the Palo Alto Veterans Affairs Police Service Martin Sizemore.

Giacomini acknowledged that as the Chief of the Cardiology Section within the VA, he had been trained throughout his career on the prevention of workplace sexual assault and sexual harassment.  He also acknowledged that he was aware that non-consensual sexual contact between supervisors and subordinates is coercive, unethical, and unlawful, and that “inappropriate touching, unwanted gifts, and unwelcome sexual comments can create a hostile work environment that unreasonably interferes with the victim’s work performance and adversely affects the victim’s employment opportunities,” said Hinds in a press release.

“As a supervisor and manager, Giacomini had an obligation to the VA and to his subordinates to prevent workplace sexual harassment and disclose any harassing behavior of which he became aware. He failed to do this.”

In November 2017, Hinds said the victim explicitly told Giacomini she was not interested in a romantic or sexual relationship with him.  She also forcibly resisted his repeated attempts to kiss her on the mouth, according to her complaint.

“Nevertheless, Giacomini continued to subject his subordinate to unwanted sexual advances and touching, culminating on December 20, 2017, when Giacomini turned out the lights, pulled the victim out of her chair, released the drawstring on her scrub pants and fondled her breast, buttocks, and vagina until a janitor opened the office door and interrupted the encounter,” Hinds said.

At some point after the event, the prosecutor said the victim resigned from her position at the VA, citing Giacomini’s behavior as her principal reason for leaving.

Freeman scheduled Giacomini’s sentencing for July 12.  Giacomini faces a maximum sentence of two years of imprisonment, a fine of $250,000, restitution, supervised release, and a special assessment.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Marissa Harris and Jeffrey Nedrow are prosecuting the case with the assistance of Nina Burney-Williams, Sahib Kaur and Susan Kreider.

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