Arkansas doctor's license is restored amid rape allegations

An Arkansas doctor facing rape and sexual assault charges had his medical license reinstated Thursday.

The Arkansas State Medical Board voted to allow Robert Rook of Conway to see patients as long as he is accompanied by a chaperone and he submits a log of all patient exams to the board. The agreement was part of a consent order proposed by Rook's attorneys.

Rook pleaded not guilty in July to three counts of rape and three counts of sexual assault. The medical board issued an emergency order of suspension in June as a result of those charges, temporarily suspending Rook's medical license.

Board members said none of the women who made the criminal allegations agreed to testify before the board, and that without their testimony, the board did not have enough evidence to uphold the suspension. Court records show three female patients reported inappropriate medical exams last year, including one who said she engaged in sexual activities with Rook in exchange for access to pharmaceuticals.

The board's attorney, Kevin O'Dwyer, said staff received an anonymous complaint in October from one of the women who has since become part of the criminal complaint.

"We investigated to the extent that we can investigate without a name," he said, noting he had spoken with the Faulkner County prosecuting attorney.

"He indicated at that time that there were three witnesses involved in the indictment, and two of them he knew for sure were uncomfortable, for whatever reason, with being a witness in front of the medical board. They would not be a witness," O'Dwyer said.

O'Dwyer advised that submitting the criminal affidavits, which contain the allegations told to investigators, could amount to hearsay evidence. The state allows administrative boards to consider hearsay evidence, but O'Dwyer said the board had not allowed similar statements in the past because the defendant's attorneys cannot cross examine or ask questions.

Thursday's move reduces the suspension to a disciplinary action called a "show cause," which requires a hearing on a future date. Board members said the show cause would stand until the criminal charges were resolved or until a witness agreed to testify before the board.

Patrick Benca, an attorney for Rook, said he would not comment on the board's decision. Nurses and physician's assistants dressed in red scrubs along with family members and friends filled the hearing room Thursday in support of Rook.

In arrest affidavits filed by Faulkner County authorities in June, three female patients identified only by their initials described situations where they say Rook conducted either breast exams or gynecological exams without a female nurse or assistant present.

A pretrial hearing is scheduled in the criminal case for September 26.