Troops say Army didn’t protect them from doctor charged with sex abuse

Fifteen current or retired Joint Base Lewis-McChord servicemen who say the Army failed to protect them from a military doctor who has been charged with sexual abuse are each seeking $5 million in damages for the emotional distress they say they have suffered.

“I have overwhelming feelings of sadness, fear, and anxiety,” one serviceman said in his complaint. “The severity of this emotional toll has made confiding in and seeking comfort from my family very challenging. I deal with mistrust because of how I was violated.”

Maj. Michael Stockin, an anesthesiologist and pain management specialist at the base’s Madigan Army Medical Center, faces 52 charges involving claims of abusive sexual contact with 41 victims, said Michelle McCaskill, spokesperson with the U.S. Army Officer of Special Trial Counsel. He has pleaded not guilty.

Stockin is scheduled to face court-martial in January 2025. A court-martial is the military’s trial court system. Trials are similar to the criminal justice system, where both sides present evidence and cross-examine witnesses. An abusive sexual content charge carries a maximum sentence of seven years, and the indecent viewing charge has a maximum of one year. If the judge ran the sexual abuse charges consecutively, he would face a maximum of 336 years in prison, McCaskill said.

His lawyer, Robert Capovilla, said they intend to fight every allegation until the jury reaches a verdict.

“Until then, we sincerely hope that the United States Army is fully prepared to respect Major Stockin’s Constitutional rights at every phase of this process,” he told The Associated Press. “We urge everyone to keep an open mind, to remember Major Stockin is presumed innocent, and understand that this fight is just getting started.”

JBLM is the U.S. Army’s fifth-largest base and is about 47 miles south of Seattle. It has a population that tops 100,000 — with 40,000 active duty, 50,000 family members and 15,000 civilian and contract employees. The personnel includes the Yakama Training Center. The Madigan medical center is the Army’s second-largest medical treatment facility.

The group Protect Our Defenders called the Stockin case the largest sexual abuse scandal in recent history and called for a Congressional review.

“Stockin must be held accountable. Army leadership must answer for how and why Stockin’s abuse was allowed to continue,” the group said in a November news release ahead of the doctor’s initial hearing on the charges. “We urge the Pentagon to take this case seriously, as well as support and embolden male survivors seeking justice and are reaching out for help. We cannot let history repeat itself by silencing survivors.”

Army spokesperson Lt. Col. Ruth Castro said when they received the first 11 claims, they sent out a statement in March saying they are reviewing them and “no decision on how to respond will be made until the Army’s review is complete and the claims have been investigated.” Castro said late Friday that she was trying to learn if they had an update to that response.

The 15 servicemen who filed the complaints were former patients of Dr. Stockin. They primarily saw him for pain management. The most recent filings were made on Thursday on behalf of three Army members and one with the Air Force. All four had been suffering chronic back pain.

One said he had an appointment with Stockin in September 2021 about a pulled muscle in his lower back. He was taken to an exam room and was alone with Stockin when the doctor told him to take off his pants and underwear, according to the complaint. He said Stockin fondled his genitals without wearing gloves.

The three others told similar stories, and they all said they had never had an exam like that before and left feeling uncomfortable and violated.

“I do believe this directly led to exacerbating my drinking because I did not know how to cope with this trauma,” one of the men said. He spent a year drinking until he blacked out, and finally entered an outpatient rehabilitation program to get sober.

“Since 2022, I’ve had to ask my wife to attend every medical appointment I’ve made because I do not feel comfortable being one on one with a medical professional as a direct result of Dr. Stockin,” he said.

The law firm Sanford Heisler Sharp filed Federal Tort Claims Act complaints against the U.S. Army and Department of Defense on behalf of the servicemen, claiming the agencies were negligent in hiring, supervising and retaining Dr. Stockin. They have six months to investigate the claims and after that, the servicemen can file a federal lawsuit, said Christine Dunn, a lead attorney on the cases.

One of the servicemen said he reported Stockin’s behavior to his superior officer, but nothing was done. Two other complaints say Stockin continued to see and abuse patients as late as April 2022 — two months after the army claimed it had removed him from duty, Dunn said.

“Each time another victim reaches out to me, I become more and more determined to hold the Army accountable for putting this serial predator in a position to abuse patients,” Dunn said. “The sheer volume of victims here points to the Army’s negligence in failing to keep patients safe.”

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