A surgeon accused of meeting a 13-year-old girl for sex in Novato could face up to four years in prison under charges filed Thursday by the district attorney's office.
Dr. Raymond Severt, 53, has been free on bail while prosecutors reviewed whether to file charges. He will be arraigned Monday on four felony counts, said Deputy District Attorney Aicha Mievis.
Severt's defense attorney, Stephen Turer, said he has not seen all the police reports, but that it appears the girl misrepresented her age in her communications.
"From what I know, this may well have been a misunderstanding," Turer said.
He said Severt would not be available for an interview.
Severt, a Santa Rosa resident, was arrested by Novato police on Feb. 11. The investigation began when police received information that a man was sending sexually explicit messages to the girl and had arranged to meet her in Novato.
Investigators intercepted Severt at about 6:15 p.m. in the area of South Novato Boulevard and Gateway Court. Police said he initially met the girl through an online chat room.
According to Turer, Severt made initial contact with the girl through www.livelinks.com, a dating website. The site's homepage specifies that it is for people 18 and older.
Visitors to the site are instructed to enter their phone number. The visitor then receives an automated call. The visitor can then record a greeting for other potential dates to hear, and can also browse recorded greetings from other people. From there, daters can set up private online chats and possibly arrange to meet.
The girl initially told Severt she was 21 years old, Turer said. Police allege she later told Severt that she was under 18, but Severt agreed to meet anyway because he did not know which age she was telling the truth about, Turer said.
Severt never actually had the chance to meet her and see that she was underage, because police arrested him first, Turer said.
"It becomes one of those not-so-unique situations where people get involved online under, at least, ambiguous or confusing circumstances," he said.
"It doesn't appear that initially his interest was in young girls," he added. "There's no indication he has any history in any way of soliciting minors. It's unfortunate what he did even if she was 21, given his age, but it's not a crime."
Severt is charged with attempted lewd acts with a child under 14, communicating with a minor for the purpose of lewd behavior, arranging a meeting with a minor for purposes of lewd behavior, and distribution of lewd material to a minor.
The latter charge is for the sexually explicit messages he allegedly sent the girl.
Severt is on leave from his medical practice, Santa Rosa Orthopeadics, an office manager told the Press Democrat newspaper.
Contact Gary Klien via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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