BREMERTON — A Bremerton orthopedic surgeon who allegedly maintained a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old foreign exchange student during her visit here this year is charged with first-degree sexual misconduct with a minor, a felony.
The Kitsap County Prosecuting Attorney’s office filed charges against Dr. Larry Dean Iversen, 73, on Oct. 4. His arraignment is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Nov. 16 in Kitsap County Superior Court. His attorney, Tim Kelly of Port Orchard, said Iversen will plead not guilty.
According to Rick Glein, attorney for the state Medical Quality Assurance Commission, Iversen could face investigation by the state commission for allegedly supplying the girl with antibiotics. Iversen’s credential status is listed as “retired active in-state” on the state Department of Health’s online database.
First-degree sexual misconduct with a minor, a Class C felony, is punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine.
Meanwhile, Iversen’s wife, to whom he has been married since 1966, filed for legal separation on Sept. 6, according to court records. A Rotary official said Iversen is banned from Rotary for life.
A phone message was left for Iversen at 1:15 p.m. Oct. 31 on an answering machine at a number listed for him. Regarding the case, “I have no comment on it right now,” Kelly said. “We’re talking about the options. We have a long ways to go.” He said Iversen would review the investigator’s report and charging documents, and indicate what he agreed and disagreed with before “deciding which route he wants to take.”
According to the charging documents, Iversen told a sheriff’s detective that he met the girl, a teen from Hungary, during an earlier exchange visit here in 2016 through the East Bremerton Rotary Club, of which Iversen was a member. According to the investigator’s report, Iversen was on a club committee charged with ensuring for foreign exchange students are safe and he “assists in writing policy and training of youth protection.” He was a counselor for a male exchange student in 2016.
Iversen told the investigator that “things became friendlier between [he and the girl] between March and April this year,” and that he bought her a ring she wanted at a Rotary auction. He said their sexual relationship began in May after a Rotary district conference at Clearwater Casino Resort. The girl, who has returned to her native Hungary, told the investigator during a long-distance phone interview Sept. 19 that she and Iversen first had sex in the Clearwater hotel during the conference.
Iversen told the investigator that he and the girl also had sex at his house and in Washington, D.C., where they had traveled together and shared a hotel room; in a text message, Iversen asked the girl to bring her copy of “The Joy of Sex” that he had bought her, according to the investigator’s report.
The girl’s host parents discovered the relationship on July 6 after they took the girl to the airport for her flight home and looked at the iPhone they had lent her. The girl had asked the host mom to reset the phone. The host mom tried unsuccessfully to reset the phone and found that it contained numerous sexual messages between Iversen and the girl, including nude images the girl sent to Iversen, according to the investigator’s report. The host mom and her husband then alerted the sheriff’s department.
At one point, Iversen bought the girl a pregnancy test and said he would start her on antibiotics for an intercourse-related bladder infection. In subsequent text messages, he advised the girl to not tell her host parents about the bladder infection, to keep “all of [the] pills hidden,” and to not tell others about gifts he had bought her; word of a purse he bought the girl got back to his wife, according to the investigator’s report.
On June 28, while on a plane to Ireland with his wife, he texted the girl that it was a good thing they wouldn’t be together for a while because he had been “getting a little crazy.” She texted back, “There’s nothing wrong with crazy …” to which he replied, “Unless one ends up in prison.”
Asked by the sheriff’s investigator what he meant by that text, Iversen reportedly said, “Well, she is 17.”
In her interview with the sheriff’s investigator, the girl said Iversen was going to take her to the Caribbean for her 18th birthday and “he had contacted the University of Washington about her attending school [there].” Iversen told the investigator that the two continued to communicate via Facebook Messenger after her return to Hungary, but on Oct. 31 Kelly said that Iversen and the girl were no longer communicating. He said he didn’t know the date of their last communication.
Rotary Club of East Bremerton president David Nelson redirected inquiries by Kitsap News Group to Rotary Club District 5020 Governor Tom Carroll.
According to Carroll, the Rotary Club of East Bremerton has a policy that requires the club to terminate the membership of anyone who admits to or is convicted of sexual abuse or harrassment.
“In the charging documents, he actually admits to this,” Carroll said. “Because of that, he is prohibited from becoming a member of Rotary again for the rest of his life.”
As for what the Rotary Club of East Bremerton would do to ensure something like this doesn’t happen again, Carroll pointed to the existing vetting process.
“Criminal background checks are required for local clubs and our district officers and coordinators, student counselors, all adult members of host families and any other Rotarian or non-Rotarian adults who have significant unsupervised contact with youth,” Carroll said. “In the case of Dr. Iversen, we did criminal background checks in July of 2015, in June of 2016 and in May of 2017.”
Iversen passed not only the criminal background check necessary to work closely with youth, but other measures employed by the club. “We also do reference checking, friends and neighbors, things like that. Those were done each time, and this guy was cleared,” Carroll said.
In the wake of the charges against Iversen, Carroll said he planned to take a look at where improvements can be made in club policy to more effectively protect youth exchange students.
“I plan to do a thorough review of all of our youth exchange and youth protection policies to see if there’s anything that we can tighten up on to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” he said.
According to his LinkedIn page, Iversen graduated from University of Washington School of Medicine in 1970. In 2005, he was disciplined by the state Medical Quality Assurance Commission for misdiagnosing a dislocated ankle joint as an ankle sprain, according to the state Department of Health’s online database.
— Richard Walker is managing editor of Kitsap News Group. Contact him at email@example.com. Nick Twietmeyer is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org