Attorneys for a noted local breast surgeon claimed Friday that Orleans Parish prosecutors deliberately mischaracterized photos seized from Dr. Alireza “Ali” Sadeghi’s phone, labeling them as child pornography and illicit shots of naked patients so as to batter his reputation as he faces rape and video voyeurism charges.
At a court hearing last month, Assistant District Attorney Jason Napoli described the discovery of “numerous photographs of naked children, a number of which are not his own (children), one posing with a dog,” that authorities seized last summer from Sadeghi’s phone.
Sadeghi also emailed himself nude snapshots of patients that prosecutors claim he took “surreptitiously” during surgery, showing “faces, breasts and vaginas.”
Napoli described the photos as he pressed Criminal District Court Judge Laurie White to set a high bail for Sadeghi, who is known for his work reconstructing cancer patients’ breasts.
Prosecutors cited the photos as evidence of “sexually assaultive behavior” and a “lustful disposition toward children.”
“These photographs are evidence of neither,” defense attorney Michael Magner argued in a legal filing Friday. “The pictures of children are entirely innocent snapshots, and the clinical pictures of patients, taken with their consent, are not assaultive.”
Prosecutors turned over additional discovery evidence to Sadeghi’s attorneys on Friday in advance of a scheduled Aug. 22 trial on the rape and video voyeurism allegations.
Sadeghi, who faces accusations of sex crimes committed between Jan. 18, 2011, and Oct. 17, 2014, claims the charges stem from a domestic dispute involving the purported victim.
The photos that prosecutors claim show “a known 8-year-old juvenile’s buttocks” were actually shots Sadeghi took of his 2-year-old son in 2008, among a series of photos of his three children — then 2, 3 and 5 — horsing around, Magner wrote. “Apparently the son was in a phase of just wearing a shirt and no pants.”
Another photo that prosecutors said shows “a known 12-year-old juvenile with her breast exposed” was actually Sadeghi’s “pre-adolescent, undeveloped daughter — who was 10 years old at the time, not 12 years old,” Magner said. He said the photo was taken as the family was holed up during Hurricane Isaac.
Prosecutors also described a pair of photos as showing “a known juvenile standing completely naked against a bed, one including the dog in proximity to the juvenile’s genitals while another known juvenile watches.”
“This inflammatory description is absurd,” Magner wrote. “These are two pictures of Dr. Sadeghi’s youngest child, who was a toddler at the time, standing next to the family’s dog and a sibling.”
Two photos of a naked juvenile who is not one of Sadeghi’s children, Magner wrote, were sent unsolicited to Sadeghi and others by a close friend, the child’s father.
The pictures, Magner said, showed the girl suffering from chickenpox. According to Magner, the friend is also a doctor and was joking that his daughter had smallpox. Sadeghi replied: “Dude. Vaccine!”
Magner said the allegations that Sadeghi took surreptitious shots of naked patients during surgery were “irresponsible” and “made without the state having done the investigatory work one would expect before making such serious and damaging claims.”
A spokesman for District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office declined to comment on Magner’s accusations, citing a policy against discussing open cases.
Sadeghi’s lawyers submitted a lengthy medical journal article he co-authored last year, including photos of naked women marked up for surgery. Magner argued the patient photos were in line with Sadeghi’s specialty of reconstructing breasts using the patient’s inner-thigh tissue.
Sadeghi, 40, has not been charged in relation to the photos, although prosecutors said last month that state Attorney General Jeff Landry’s office was involved in an ongoing investigation.
Sadeghi, who remains free on $200,000 bail, has pleaded not guilty.
A hearing on the photos is scheduled for June 23.
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