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By Edward Lewis , Citizens' Voice Staff Writer 05/27/2004
A 34-year-old woman who was a patient at Mercy Hospital, Wilkes-Barre, waited nearly 10 months before notifying authorities that nurse John Pambianco allegedly touched her improperly several times.
Pambianco is on trial in Luzerne County Court before a jury of eight men, four women and two female alternates.
He is accused of fondling two female patients at the hospital in February/March and August 2003.
Assistant District Attorney Ingrid Cronin, who is prosecuting Pambianco, asked the first victim why she waited 10 months to contact Wilkes-Barre police.
"I thought no one was going to believe me," the victim testified. "I didn't think they knew they had a pervert on their staff."
The victim of the February/March alleged sexual assault said she contacted police after she saw Pambianco's picture in The Citizens' Voice on Oct. 2, 2003. The picture accompanied a story related to a preliminary hearing for Pambianco on charges he allegedly sexually assaulted a second female patient at the hospital in August 2003.
"I read the first paragraph and said to myself, 'He did it again,' " the first victim testified.
Pambianco's defense lawyer, Joseph Nocito, argued the allegations related to the two victims are similar.
The first victim said Pambianco allegedly rubbed her breast with his palms down while re-attaching heart monitor leads to her upper chest and sides of her torso. She testified she thought it was strange it took Pambianco three minutes to re-attach the leads to her body since a female nurse only took a minute.
The first victim also said she was awakened in the middle of the night when Pambianco allegedly rubbed her inner thigh.
"After the third touch, I knew something was wrong," the first victim testified.
The victim of the alleged sexual assault in August said she was afraid to immediately notify anyone at the hospital because she feared Pambianco was going to inject her with a drug that would kill her.
While taking four or five different medications for a heart condition, the second victim said Pambianco offered her Zanax to help her sleep the night of Aug. 19, 2003.
However, Nocito said a hospital report said a female nurse had offered the second victim Zanax, not his client.
The second victim said Pambianco allegedly rubbed her buttocks in a circular motion the night of Aug. 20, 2003.
"I knew what was happening," the second victim testified.
Pambianco returned to the victim's room the night of Aug. 21, 2003, and allegedly rubbed his hand on her inner thigh and fondled her breast.
She said he returned 15 minutes later and placed his hand on her front shoulder.
"I had my head turned when he touched me; he touched me to see if I would say anything, to see if I reacted," the second victim testified.
When the second victim notified her doctor and a hospital employee, she was transported to Wilkes-Barre General Hospital. She was returned to Mercy Hospital, where she remained anonymous in another room on a different floor.
When the second victim was released from the hospital, Pambianco allegedly called her home and asked if they could work it out.
"He said, 'I'm scared' and said, 'I'm not a mad man,' " the second victim testified about her telephone conversation with Pambianco. "He urged me to call the hospital and have them call everything off."
The second victim said she ran to a neighbor's residence because she feared Pambianco would arrive at her home.
Judge Joseph M. Augello, who is presiding over the trial, permitted an alleged victim from 2000 to testify. She accused Pambianco of sexually assaulting her while she was a patient at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital. At that time, Pambianco was a nurse at General Hospital.
However, Pambianco was cleared of any wrongdoing for the alleged 2000 incident when Judge Michael T. Conahan dismissed a single count of indecent assault.
The alleged victim from 2000 testified Pambianco allegedly rubbed her buttocks from outside her hospital gown.
"Whoever was doing it thought I was asleep, but I was awake," the alleged victim testified. "I rolled over and he asked how I was doing.
"I said I was fine and rolled back over; I wanted him to go away," the alleged victim testified.
"The commonwealth (district attorney's office) never re-filed the charges?" Nocito asked.
"I didn't know they could," the alleged victim from the 2000 incident testified. "I would have, if I knew."
Six witnesses testified against Pambianco, including Wilkes-Barre police Det. Ronald Feibus, before Cronin rested her case.
Nocito called a female nurse from Mercy Hospital as his first witness who testified she worked with Pambianco for a year and explained how heart monitor leads are attached to a body.
Nocito is expected to resume his defense Tuesday morning.
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