1st of 2 Ohio twin-brother pediatricians accused of child-sex crimes goes on trial

Monday, October 5, 2009

Twin pediatricians fight child sex accusations

HAMILTON, Ohio — Twin brother pediatricians are going on trial on charges that for years they used their practices in a middle-class Ohio community to recruit boys for sex and bribed them not to tell authorities.

Jury selection began Monday in the trial of 53-year-old Mark Blankenburg in a state court in Butler County, about 30 miles north of Cincinnati. Blankenburg’s twin, Dr. Scott Blankenburg, faces a separate trial in April.

Details are few on the number of victims, their ages or where the alleged crimes occurred. The charges include multiple counts of corruption of a minor with at least two youths who were ages 13 to 15 at the time.

Mark Blankenburg also is accused of trafficking in prescription drugs that at least one victim became addicted to, and of bribing prospective witnesses and paying money for sex. Scott Blankenburg does not face any drug-related charges.

Lawyers for Mark Blankenburg say many of the charges are vague, and they have questioned the credibility of some of the accusers — some of whom have faced criminal charges themselves.

Blankenburg appeared relaxed and calm during the proceedings, occasionally smiling at those in the courtroom, including a news photographer.

The doctors have practiced for more than 20 years in Hamilton, a city of about 50,000 situated on gentle hills north of Cincinnati. Authorities said the abuses date to 1987.

The jury will decide 16 sex charges, with Common Pleas Judge Keith Spaeth ruling on about 25 remaining counts, including money laundering, bribery, corrupt activity and drug charges.

Spaeth last month separated pornography charges involving young boys from Mark Blankenburg’s current charges. A second trial date on those charges has not been set.

Assistant Prosecutor Lance Salyers says the Blankenburgs used their medical practices to provide them with victims and with money to pay the youngsters for sex acts or bribes.

Authorities said they began looking at Mark Blankenburg in late 2007, but the charges became public only when he was indicted on 36 felony counts in December 2008. Additional indictments in March accused him of committing sex acts on minors, selling prescription drugs to minors, money laundering, and bribing his victims into silence.

The court called 150 potential jurors Monday, about three times the normal amount, using a conference room for questioning because the courthouse’s largest courtroom was occupied.

At least six had children or grandchildren who had been patients of one of the doctors, and one woman had worked for Mark Blankenburg until February.

The trial is expected to last two weeks.

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