Orleans Parish prosecutors on Monday withdrew allegations that prominent New Orleans plastic surgeon Dr. Alireza “Ali” Sadeghi, who faces rape and voyeurism charges, also kept child pornography and illicit photos of his nude patients while they were under the knife.
District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office dropped its plans to introduce the photos as evidence of “similar crimes” after Sadeghi’s attorneys this month argued that prosecutors had mischaracterized the photos solely to batter the doctor’s public image.
A spokesman for Cannizzaro’s office declined to comment on the move, citing office policy against discussing open cases.
Sadeghi, 40, wasn’t charged directly over the photos, which were extracted from various electronic devices that authorities seized last summer, well before his May 13 indictment on rape and voyeurism charges.
Sadeghi faces accusations of sex crimes committed between Jan. 18, 2011, and Oct. 17, 2014, based on allegations lodged by a woman with whom he has been locked in a civil domestic dispute.
He has pleaded not guilty to those charges and remains free on $200,000 bail, with a trial date scheduled in August.
Prosecutors had told Criminal District Court Judge Laurie White last month that they intended to use the photos as evidence of Sadeghi’s “sexually assaultive behavior” and a “lustful disposition toward children.”
They also said state Attorney General Jeff Landry’s office was involved in an ongoing investigation of the material.
Assistant District Attorney Jason Napoli described the discovery of “numerous photographs of naked children, a number of which are not his own, one posing with a dog.”
Napoli said Sadeghi also emailed himself nude snapshots of patients that prosecutors claimed he took “surreptitiously” during surgery, showing “faces, breasts and vaginas.”
Sadeghi specializes in breast reconstruction procedures.
In a legal filing this month, defense attorney Michael Magner described the allegedly offending photos, one by one, as innocent snapshots of Sadeghi’s own children and a photo that a close friend had sent of his daughter suffering from chickenpox.
Sadeghi’s attorneys have described the allegations of “surreptitious” patient photos as irresponsible.
Arguing that those photos were clinical shots, Sadeghi’s attorneys submitted a lengthy medical journal article the doctor co-authored last year, which included published photos of naked women marked up for surgery.
Magner declined to comment on the decision by Cannizzaro’s office to drop the bid to include the photos in the rape case against Sadeghi.
And in a lengthy motion filed Monday, Sadeghi’s attorneys asked the judge to throw out the fruits of several searches of Sadeghi’s electronics and emails.
They said the warrant for the initial search was based on misstatements about the nature of the woman’s allegations against Sadeghi, conflicting statements by the woman and a failure by police to reveal the domestic backdrop to the allegations.
Sadeghi’s attorneys also claim police conducted a search that was far too wide-ranging, going through more than 40,000 emails and exploring 16 phones, computers, cameras and other devices.
That search swept up privileged attorney-client and patient-doctor records, Magner said.
New Orleans Police Department Detective Jeffrey Keating and other investigators “did not confine their searches to evidence of … rape or video voyeurism. They indiscriminately rummaged through all data, regardless of whether they had established probable cause to do so beforehand,” Magner said.
Sadeghi’s attorneys also argued that none of the search warrant applications disclosed that he was a doctor or “specifically authorized law enforcement review of protected health information.”
Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.