No A-frame: Judge convicts dentist of farewell butt grab

news-tisdelle-ofcDentist George Tisdelle was arrested nearly a week after a former employee says she was groped at his Ivy Road office.
MUGSHOT ALBEMARLE POLICE

It was a classic case of she-said/he-said. She said the farewell hug included a grope of her right buttock. He said it was a rub on the back. In Albemarle General District Court Wednesday, Judge Bob Downer found dentist George Tisdelle, 51, guilty of sexual battery, a Class 1 misdemeanor, and gave him 90 days, all suspended.

The young Ruckersville woman who filed the complaint testified that the groping took place on June 3, her last day working at Tisdelle's Ivy Road practice, where she'd worked for a year.

"He came in to say goodbye," Kristen Hanlan recalled. "He had his arms out and said, 'Can I get a squeeze or a hug?'"

Defense attorney Rhonda Quagliana noted that the written complaint filed six days after the incident only mentioned a request for a hug, not a squeeze. And throughout the 90-minute trial, Quagliana portrayed a mere "A-frame hug" that her client allegedly used, with hands on the shoulders in a position far north of the derriere.

Former employee Hanlan disagreed. She portrayed a devilish dentist who pointed out that she was thin and then awkwardly reached southward.

"He came around and grabbed my right butt cheek," she testified. "I was not expecting that."

She also testified about an uncomfortable interlude, a months-earlier incident in which Tisdelle allegedly made a laughing remark about putting a camera in the small room that the dental office provided for lactating staffers. During the same conversation, Hanlan testified, he complimented her shirt.

The defense contended that the assistant's work was unsatisfactory, an effort that seemed geared toward suggesting a motive to manufacture an incident as revenge. However, Hanlan testified that she simply gave two weeks notice because she found work 10 minutes from home rather than 45 minutes.

Christine Brown has been the office manager at the practice Tisdelle shares with his wife, and Brown said that in 11 years, she'd never heard of any fondling complaints about Tisdelle. However, Brown was within earshot that day, and she told the court that after Tisdelle went in to issue a farewell that she heard the departing employee yell out "hey." Another employee testified that she, too, heard a sudden "hey" from Hanlan during Tisdelle's farewell embrace. Both fellow employees say the victim told them what happened and demonstrated the allegedly errant hug.

"I was not expecting that," Hanlan testified. "I pushed him back."

In his own defense, Tisdelle took the stand to deny any groping. He insisted that, yes, he remarked that Hanlan was thin but he claimed he was properly confining his rubbing to her back when she inexplicably yelled.

Prosecutor Will Hendricks said he could have produced even more corroborating witnesses.

"It's an embarrassing charge," said Hendricks. "I think Dr. Tisdelle feels entitled."

Quagliana closed by once again demonstrating an A-frame hug–- "the hug you do when you don't want to touch–-" and maintained that the disparate stories had to raise reasonable doubt in the mind of the judge.

Not this judge. Downer found Tisdelle guilty.

"I don't have any doubts," said Downer. "I think he did touch her inappropriately."

Downer did, however, concur with Quagliana that the sexual battery doesn't amount to assault and battery, so he suspended the 90-day sentence on the condition of two years good behavior.

Tisdelle has filed an appeal.

Updated 9:15pm with the correct spelling of Will Hendricks' name.

August 24 Editor's note: The original version of this story did not include the victim's name because of standard journalistic practice to not identify victims of sexual assault. However, after several newsroom discussions, the Hook editorial staff decided that this case is a misdemeanor, and while its legal term is "sexual battery," it is comparable to other assaults for which victims are routinely named. At this point, the Hook will publish the names of those victims of misdemeanor assault including sexual battery.

September 22 Editor's clarification: Alerted to the fact that the crime of an adult uncle having sex with his teenage niece appears currently classified as a misdemeanor, the Hook stipulates that such crime would typically fall into the non-naming category.

45 comments

Easy Gasbag, hold on. You're starting to go down the "appeal to motive" fallacy. That is, you are doubting the claim of the woman by way of calling into question the motive of the commonwealth's attorney.

The woman was either harassed by Tisdelle or she was not harrassed by Tisdelle. The motive of the commonwealth's attorney is irrelevent to the truth value of the woman's claim (as is your story about the neighborhood being fingerprinted).

If this is truly a he said/she said case, can we know with 100% certainty who is telling the truth? Of course not. But my money would be on the woman's story because it was reviewed by a judge who deemed it reasonable enough to impose a sentence on Tisdelle, not to mention that this case doesn't appear to be a purely he said/she said case. 2 employees heard a "hey" during the hug, the woman demonstrated the hug to those 2 employees immediately afterwards, and the woman testified about the camera for lactation comment. The lactation comment, at least according to this story, was not refuted by Tisdelle. Tisdelle's defense was that the woman was a bad employee and he rubbed her back instead of her butt. Hmmm... Why would he give a bad employee a goodbye hug in the first place, much less a hug with back rubs?

Oh well, another long winded reply shot off into outer space. I hate it when this blog software does that foolishness.

Anyhow, let me recapp what I said in 20 words or less.

Mr/Mrs/Miss Personal Responsibility, you have a lot to learn about how the local criminal justice system works.

Judge Downer is about the kindest, fairest most human judge you could ever hope to get. People should not make things up.

manbearpig, I can't answer your last question. Nobody on the face of the earth knows what really happened, either before trial or after trial. Except the dentist and the alleged victim of course. A conviction doesn't even make the allegation true.

Suppose an employer calls a female employee out on the carpet over something he did not understand and had not investigated very well before going off the deep end? He yells, he screams, he curses, he has the employee in tears! Is the employer at fault? Of course he is! But suppose no apology is ever offered up to the employee, would the employee have an ulterior motive in making a false allegation against the employer at some point in time? Has this been done in the past? Will it ever take place in the future? You can bet your last nickel it has and will.

What a waste of time. Why someone in this day and age would do anything beyond calling him out at the time or alerting her coworkers.. or telling uis wife is beyond me.

The judge has more important things to do like listen to the crybabies over in Belmont who think 56db is too high a noise level.

This also would have prevented all the litigation

Sounds like much ado about nothing. If I were Dr. Tisdelle I never would have opted for "trial by judge", especially with this judge. Surely a jury would see things differently. Shame on the hook too for not publishing the "victim's" name.

Georgie's wife is cute. Don't know why he'd need to grab the staff!
...possible pun

Calling into question the motive of the commonwealth’s attorney? Not me. I said the commonwealth attorney often doesn't know the ulterior motives involved in a case being laid on his/her plate for prosecution.

What a joke! These laws were intended for SERIOUS offenses, not for a squeeze of the butt in a building with other people present... Her job was not at risk, nor was a promotion, nor her SAFETY, etc... What folly by this woman!

She should have slapped him, embarrassed him in front of staffers/patients, and left... End of story. Get on with life!

Shame on this woman for abusing the system and demeaning the charges of others who were TRULY sexually battered. This case tells us more about the woman than the man... She has issues!

And, yes, he is my dentist. Yes, he works with a majority of women in his office, some cute. But every time I have been in his office, he has been professional, never flirty with the staff. And a great dentist as well. I'll still be his patient...

I am not surprised -- I left his practice many years ago because I was uncomfortable with his sexual innuendos.

Perhaps his defense should have been that she never minded it in the past.......

The lesson would be that if the Police ask you if you ever grabbed a girls butt your reply should be "I always grab a girls butt when we are having consensual sex"

This is one of those cases where it sure would be nice to have a video available to determine whose telling the truth and who isn't.

This also had to be an extremely hard case for Judge Downer to rule in. I wouldn't have wanted to be in his shoes that day!

slimedog - only a jury could see the truth, those who don't sit through the trial are unqualified to speak. Rush to judgment? Makes MY skin crawl.

I believe that Tisdelle is GUILTY!

Jake, you want a definiton of aggravated sexual battery?

Google the name Dong Wang, King's Dominion.

A 21 year old King's Dominion employee is arrested for lifting an 8-year-old boy up to play some sort of game. The kid thanked him by kissing him. He was arrested for aggravated sexual battery of the 8-year-old kid.

This is why the American public is scared to death to intervene when they see a young child in distress, they will walk right on by and not get involved. I am ashamed to live in America some days!

--------------------------

A Kings Dominion worker has been arrested after being accused of inappropriately touching a child.

21-year-old Dong Wang is charged with aggravated sexual battery in connection with the incident, which happened several weeks ago at the theme park.

Investigators tell CBS 6 they charged Wang after receiving a call from a Tennessee man who claimed his 8-year-old was inappropriately touched. It's unclear what exactly happened, but Wang's lawyer, Steve Coleman, says surveillance video shows his client lifting the child up onto a rail to help him play a game. Coleman tells CBS 6 the video also shows the 8-year-old kissing Wang on the cheek.

Coleman says he believes the charge Wang is facing is too severe. He is working with the Commonwealth's Attorney's office to try and get the charge reduced.

Wang, who is a foreign exchange student from China, is currently being held at the Pamunkey Regional Jail.

CBS 6 reached out to Kings Dominion for a comment, but a park spokesman referred us to Hanover Commonwealth's Attorney Tripp Chalkley. When we went to Chalkey's office Wednesday, we were told he was not immediately available for comment.

Quagliana closed by once again demonstrating again an A-frame hugââ?¬â? ââ?¬Å?the hug you do when you don’t want to touchââ?¬â?”
When you don't want to touch, you don't ask someone for a hug, as the defendant did here. And you certainly don't start rubbing them, as he has admitted... based solely on what I've read here I'd probably have convicted him too.

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Rhonda Quagliana has certainly represented some of the most infamous people accused of some of the most heinous crimes. The very fact that she was selected as his attorney makes one wonder.

It's no wonder this country is fast becoming a joke in other parts of the world, when an established professional's reputation can be besmirched by such a triviality as this and maybe even be required to submit to the indignity of having to register as a "sex offender". On the other hand, though the "victim" (who suffered no genuine harm) can remain anonymous in the press, she won't be likely to do so in the dental field and her name will get passed around the professional community. Her current job may her last hire in this area, as it should be if she's that much of a troublemaker. She probably had reasons beyond a shorter commute for switching jobs and I am suspicious she was settling a score with the doctor. She'd never get hired in my office.

I think this is a typical case of "he said" - "she said" and of course being the "accused" male, the "she said" prevailed.

I still say he shoplifted the booty.

A dentist named Tisdelle-Malone
Caught the hygienist, quite alone;
In his depravity, he probed the wrong cavity...
My how his business has grown!

@Rmplstlskn: So if misdemeanor sexual battery wasn't intended for this, what is aggravated sexual battery intended for?

I liked the way the things were handled in years passed. Slap his face and move on.

I bet he is a fan of that song "Booty Meat" I rather like it myself. Girl shake dat booty meat shake dat booty meat!

Isn't A-Frame a dance move in a Village People song?

Butt grabbing at a bar - no foul, but a single butt grab in the office is a crime. Okay then. Now, let's go shoot up some Iraqis to celebrate our moral superiority and evolved decision making ability.

People ask 'what would the world be like if women ran everything?', implying an end to war and other testosterone driven behavior. I say, you'd have courts crammed full of cases like this one and the poor student from China. It's all ludicrous.

He can note an appeal within ten days if he is unsatisfied and have his case tried to a jury in the Circuit Court. His attorney will advise him that his outcome may be better or it may be worse, and ultimately the dentist will have to decide whether to chance it. There just seems to be too much evidence to corroborate her story. Disinterested witnesses hearing the "hey!", no one hearing any exclamation of "what?" from him, him corroborating every element of her story except the one critical second. Just because he only did it to one person doesn't mean he couldn't have done it at all. He felt something stronger toward this woman than he did toward most. He gets off light, essentially with just a sentence of embarassment. What if he hadn't been so direct as to go for a squeeze but had just done that, oh-the-heel-of-my-hand-grazed-your-behind-as-it-fell-away-from-our-hug maneuver? She probably wouldn't have yelped, it would have sounded like too much of a gray area to the judge, he would have got away with it, and she would still feel like she just got slimed.

@Gasbag - Tisdelle would agree about the camera, he apparently wanted one installed too....though it was to videotape lactating staffers.

Well he might have gotten off easily with the court but I guess his name is not to good in the dental community now.

I believe that he did end up touching her butt. Otherwise, the Commonwealth's Attorney wouldn't have wasted his time prosecuting the case. The process for making a complaint with the police, talking it over with the Commonwealth's attorney, and bringing it before the court is not an easy process for someone who feels that she's had her personal space violated. In sexual assault, the defense's case revolves around physical evidence/witnesses and credibility of the witnesses.

In his case, he claimed to do one thing (A frame hug) and then admitted to doing something else (touched her lower back (she said butt). That's inconsistent testimony, and is therefore not credible.

She had a consistent story, and there were witnesses who overheard her reaction to his actions, and their testimony was consistent with what she said. She wins. He loses.

--

If you think it's not harmful when people are sexually harassed, touched inappropriately, or assaulted, then you are mistaken. It's not okay to infringe on other people's personal space and violate their boundaries. It's not your place to say whether or not she was harmed--she experienced it as harmful to her enough that she went through the whole (very stressful) legal process to deal with it. She had to endure the indignity of being groped AND the indignity of his defense argument that she was a bad employee, which is wholly irrelevant to the charge and is just an attempt to smear her.

If slapped you in the face, you would rightfully be able to claim assault and press charges, even if it didn't leave a bruise. Why is this so different?

This may not seem as serious to you as some cases - and it's not - and the law recognized that it's not by convicting him of a misdemeanor charge that didn't even lead to jail time - but every time society makes it "okay" for someone to violate another person's rights, we run the risk of more egregious offenses. I'm glad that he got his conviction and slap on the wrist, and I hope he thinks twice before he puts his hands on someone else.

the ladys name was KRISTEN HANLAN

@gasbag

You could save yourself, and us, a lot of time by replacing all of your longwinded posts with what you just wrote:

"Mr/Mrs/Miss Personal Responsibility, you have a lot to learn about how the local criminal justice system works."

Is Miss Hanlan hot?

Yes JJ, I suppose so. But I also think it's important for people to realize how the commonwealth attorney often gets duped into prosecuting false charges. There's often ulterior motives behind the scenes that the commonwealth attorney isn't even aware of. The long winded example I earlier submitted (shot off into outer space) explained how an entire neighborhood was tricked into supplying fingerprints during an investigation. Except in one case of course, a father refused. So the cops had to falsely arrest him and remove him from the home as they strong armed the wife and children to submit to fingerprints. Once the father was removed from the home, the rest of the family had NO constitutional rights whatsoever in the eyes of the law. And the commonwealth attorney had no clue why this false charge was placed against the father, it was supposedly "irrelevant".

If he's a good dentist, his practice will not suffer an iota. She on the other hand will be tainted and considered radioactive by employers who check up on her.
Anyone checking references will throw her application in the round file once they find out: "She worked for us for one year, resigned her position and filed a sexual harassment complaint against the Dr. Her job performance was adequate, but not outstanding; she is not eligible for rehire".

Sometimes doing what feels right at the time is not in your best interests over the long run, and this may be the case for this "victim"

I am old enough to remember the early days of the push against sexual harassment when it meant a situation where employers used their power to extort sex from employees, as in "sweetheart, we're going to have to let all but one of our secretaries go, but if you're willing to take care of me, I'll take care of you", but that was in the sixties. Since then the concept of sexual harassment has been enlarged upon so that it now fills up all available space and illustrates perfectly the logical standard of "Reductio ad Absurdum".

At the moment he grabbed her butt he was most vulnerable to attack, women who know the basics of self defense and survival can use this to their advantage. This is the moment she should have lovingly reached up and locked her hands behind his neck, made sure her knee was positioned between his legs and nailed him in the balls.

Let's allow that he put his hand on her butt.

Not cool, and an abject apology should have followed (provided she objected or attempted to avoid it).

But what this guy has endured in pain & suffering so outweighs that of the original, libidinous, but not so egregious offense.

Yes, sorry Gasbag, I read your post sloppily.

But I'm curious, are you claiming that because "the commonwealth attorney often gets duped into prosecuting false charges" that the woman in this case duped the attorney? It seems that that would have been rectified by the judge throwing out the case.

Female cries foul .. male convicted .. seems to be the prevailing wind whether guilty or not.

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I've known Dr Tisdelle for many years, Back when he was working with Dr Alton Thomas, He has been my Denist for years and I dont beleive that Dr Tisdelle would do anything like what he is accused of doing. I have been around Dr Tisdelle at his office and around the city and at his home. and I dont beleive he is that kind of person. I can smell a lawsuit.

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Does anyone else think that its funny that The Hook used the word A-Frame in a news article. I know it applies generally but I just can't stop laughing about it.