PALM COAST, Fla. – A former Flagler County physician was sentenced to two years’ probation after pleading no contest to a felony charge that he groped one of his patients.
Florence Fruehan, 59, pleaded no contest to a count of battery on a person 65 or older as part of a plea agreement that saw him avoid prosecution for two more felony counts and a misdemeanor. He was also stripped of his ability to work in the medical field and ordered not to contact his former patients.
Pleading no contest does not mean a defendant is admitting guilt, only that entering the plea is in his or her best interest.
"Our detectives have done a great job working this case and working with the State Attorney’s Office to seek justice for the victims," Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly said. "I hope the victims see this as a positive outcome and find peace knowing that he will never practice medicine again."
The charges stem from an investigation that began in 2018 in response to complaints made by patients who told investigators that Fruehan had touched them without permission and seemingly without any medical purpose during visits to the doctor’s office, according to the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office.
After the initial round of complaints, the Sheriff’s Office asked anyone who recalled similar incidents to file reports with law enforcement or the Florida Department of Health. Several more patients came forward afterward, but deputies found the statute of limitations had expired in many of those cases.
As part of his sentence, Fruehan was ordered to undergo a mental health evaluation. He is eligible to get his sentence cut in half if he successfully completes the terms of his court-ordered probation.