The Dental and Dental Hygienist Licensing Board on Tuesday revoked the license of South Ogden dentist Gregg Terry Nielsen, ruling that Nielsen's sexual abuse of patients was "wholly inexcusable and the seriousness of that misconduct cannot be overstated."
Nielsen was convicted of three counts of second-degree-felony sexual abuse of a child and two counts of attempted sexual abuse of a child, a third-degree felony. The charges carry a maximum sentence of one to 15 years, but 2nd District Judge Stanton Taylor sentenced him to a one-year jail term, granting Nielsen work-release and later allowing him to finish the sentence at an Ogden halfway house.Following license revocation hearing Aug. 5, the Dental Board concluded that Nielsen's conduct had been egregious and related to his dental practice but allowed him to keep his license subject to several conditions, including refraining from treating female patients under age 18.
But that decision outraged Attorney General Jan Graham, who requested the Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing reconsider its decision.
Lawyers for the state said it sent a "chilling message" to health-care providers, suggesting they can remain formally sanctioned by the state "even if you have repeatedly sexually preyed on children . . . as long as you say you're sorry and promise not to do it again," wrote deputy solicitor general Annina M. Mitchell.
In its brief to state Commerce Department Director Constance White, the attorney general's office argued that the "cursory findings" of the board didn't adequately reflect the "frequency, duration, nature and egregiousness of the sexual abuse" Nielsen committed on three children, ages 11, 12 and 13. The Department of Commerce oversees the Dental Board.
"In light of the evidence before it, the Dental Board's decision not to revoke Nielsen's dental license is not only unreasonable, it is outrageous," the brief said. "It is a disservice to the Utah public and an insult to other members of the dental profession."
Nielsen's attorney, John T. Nielsen (not related to his client), urged the board not to succumb to pressure from state prosecutors. "You're being told that you didn't understand the facts, that you incorrectly analyzed the law," Nielsen said. "It's a direct attack on your ability to analyze the facts and make an unbiased decision."
In the petition for agency review, Graham said the evidence against Nielsen "details hundreds of separate incidents in Nielsen's dental office."
On Tuesday, Graham said, "Revocation is necessary in this case to protect the public and the integrity of the dental profession. The board's decision sends the right message to medical-care providers: If you sexually abuse a patient, you are not fit to hold a professional license from the state of Utah."
Upon reconsideration, the board "unanimously concludes (Nielsen's) immoral and criminal conduct seriously compromised his professional relationships" and that he had "shattered the fundamental ethic of all health-care professionals when he pursued a course of inexcusable conduct."
The license revocation is effective May 25.