Plastic surgeon Richard B. Edison is a dubious doctor who has been hit with a lot of life-altering allegations over the years.
Five patients at the medical facility he directs in Hollywood have died after routine cosmetic surgeries during the past 11 years, three of them under Edison's own knife.
One woman, after being disfigured during a face-lift there, tried to kill herself by driving into a canal.
The 56-year-old Edison once left a medical sponge in a woman's breast and claimed that the patient had left it there herself, prompting the victim to call Edison an "unbelievable human being" who needed to be "squashed like a bug."
Edison's transgressions haven't all been medical-related. In 1998, he pleaded no contest to a Hollywood police charge of soliciting a prostitute.
Edison, a married father of two, has survived all the allegations and continues to practice medicine today.
But the newest accusation, coming deep from Edison's past, may be the most damning of all.
A Massachusetts man filed a lawsuit in January that alleges Edison molested him when he was a child over a period of two years beginning in 1974. At the time, Edison was in his 20s and a student at University of Massachusetts Medical School. His accuser, Tim Clark, was an 11-year-old boy.
Clark claims that Edison, whose attorney denies the allegation, befriended him and would take him to his apartment, where he would give him marijuana and sometimes beer before sexually assaulting him. The scene repeated itself numerous times over the next two years, Clark alleges. Even after his mother moved him to two different apartment complexes, Edison would show up and the abusive routine would start up again, he contends.
Clark's attorney, Stephen J. Gordon, filed a lawsuit in Massachusetts Superior Court in January, and at Edison's request, it was transferred to federal court on February 12.
Clark says he first met Edison because he was drawn to the med-school student's souped-up Oldsmobile Cutlass. He says Edison gave him a ride and then invited him up to his third-floor apartment for ice cream. Soon Edison was letting him drive the car.
"I liked driving the car, and he liked me sitting on his lap," says Clark. "Then he would invite me to his apartment and he would put the TV on, and he liked me to watch The Three Stooges with him.
"One day, he asked if he could give me a 'crusher.' I asked what a crusher was, and he said, 'Don't you watch wrestling?' Then he started jumping on me."
Clark claims the physical relationship progressed into a bizarre and disturbing ritual. He alleges Edison would suggest they smoke a joint and then begin to give him another crusher. The wrestling would then turn sexual, Clark claims, with Edison taking out his penis and rubbing against the child until he ejaculated, often while sucking on the boy's toes.
The routine was usually devoid of penetration, though Clark said that Edison, under the guise of being a doctor in training, would at times inspect him with a small flashlight, which he at times put in the boy's rectum.
Clark says he was an immature kid, small for his age, who looked up to Edison as a father figure. "He told me that his father had a lot of money and that when he became a doctor, he would buy me a bicycle and other things," says Clark. "When I look back, I see a conniving guy who found a vulnerable kid and clearly took advantage of him and used him for his sexual preferences. The guy... has been hiding for a long time."
He claims Edison also threatened harm to his mother if she were to find out. His mother never knew about the sexual abuse, says Clark, but hated that the full-grown man spent so much time with him and angrily told the medical student to stay away.
The final straw came when another boy became involved and told his mother, who in turn contacted Clark's mom. At that point, she went to authorities in Worcester, Massachusetts, and filed a criminal misdemeanor charge of disturbing the peace against Edison.
Clark says the last time he ever saw Edison was in the courtroom after the charge was filed. But he claims that the rest of his youth and young adulthood were wrecked by the experience until he became sober in 1994, about a year after he met his wife.
"No question I spent many years of my life trying to drown myself with drugs and alcohol," says Clark, who now runs a small automobile business in Massachusetts. "I really got robbed of my childhood."
He says he blocked Edison out of his mind until this past Mother's Day, when he visited the gravesite of his mother, who died in 2001. On that day, Clark says all the memories he'd buried came back to the surface and overwhelmed him.
"It was a beautiful sunny May day, and I was sitting there reminiscing about my mother's life and my life, and this guy came flying back at me," says Clark. "It all rushed back to me like it was yesterday. I went home and looked at my wife in the face and said, 'I need to talk to you.' I told her what had happened, and she said, 'You're kidding me. What are you going to do?' I decided that I was going to finish this."
Edison declined to comment on Clark's lawsuit, but his attorney, Stephen Cohen, says the lawsuit, in which Clark is demanding damages in excess of $20,000, is an "unmitigated lie." Cohen said Edison would likely file counterclaims against Clark in federal court.
"There is absolutely no truth to this," says Cohen. "There may be criminal conduct on the other side, in the area of extortion. As it goes forward, perhaps perjury as well."
Clark has strong evidence to back up his case, most important the court record in the civil disobedience case, obtained by New Times, showing that his mother indeed had Edison charged.
Cohen acknowledges the charge but won't talk about it in detail.
"For one year after that [charge was filed], there was nothing but court supervision over Dr. Edison," Cohen says. "What happened after that is that the charge was thrown out, and there was nothing done."
To help piece together his past, Clark hired a reputable Massachusetts private investigator named John Lajoie. It was Lajoie who found the court record and several witnesses who confirm that Edison spent a lot of time with the young Clark and gave him marijuana and beer.
There are no witnesses to the alleged sexual assaults, but Lajoie says some will testify that Edison would take Clark off alone, and at times into his locked bedroom, for extended periods of time.
"I asked Clark, 'Why are you coming forward 30 years later?' " recalls Lajoie. "And do you know what he said to me? He says, 'I suppose the same reason that the victims of the priests suppressed their problems and their abuse.' "
Lajoie says Clark passed a polygraph test regarding his allegations.
"He's telling the truth," concludes Lajoie, "not only on the sexual abuse but on the dormant memory recovery and the trigger event [at his mother's gravesite]."
There is also the matter of the 1998 prostitution charge, a charge of "moral turpitude," as Lajoie calls it. But the specifics of the case aren't known because Edison had the case expunged. It has been sealed by the court, and Cohen won't discuss it.
"What basis does that have in [Clark's] complaint?" asks Cohen. "None."
There is no known evidence to show that Edison has sexually abused any other children, but his professional life has been marked by controversy, much of it reported by daily newspapers.
The Sun-Sentinel conducted a years-long investigation of cosmetic surgery deaths and reported that five patients died between 1997 and 2004 after routine surgeries — tummy tucks, face-lifts, and liposuction — at Edison's medical facility, Cosmetic Surgery PA, on Stirling Road in Hollywood.
The Miami Herald in 2002 reported a host of complaints on Edison, including two malpractice lawsuits for which he had to pay large judgments, one of them for leaving the sponge in the woman's breast and the other for giving another woman breast implants too large for her body.
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In 1995, the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration issued a "letter of concern" regarding his work and fined him. In 2007, the Florida Board of Medicine suspended Edison from practicing for 30 days, fined him $10,000, and placed him on two years of probation.
Last year, he voluntarily surrendered his medical license in California, where he had been accused of a wrongful death in a 1984 case. Edison has managed to keep his Florida license and has also retained his membership in the supposedly elite American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery.
While regulators and his own professional peers have gone relatively easy on Edison, Clark promises that he won't stop until the doctor pays for what he's done to him. He says he might even try to file criminal charges. Though the statute of limitations has run out, he says there is a possibility it could be suspended because Edison left the state.
"It's painful right now; it has been a long year," he says. "I didn't sleep for months. I've got two children, I'm a businessman, and it's the last thing I want to stir up. But it's in front of me now, and I'm not going away."