A Louisiana plastic surgeon was accused of snapping naked pics and video of female patients—including cancer survivors—while they were under anesthesia in his raucous operating room.
New Orleans prosecutors said Dr. Ali Sadeghi snapped photo and video of four women while they were unconscious and on operating tables in 2015 while nurses danced and made obscene gestures next to them. The surgeon, a 41-year-old father of three, then allegedly sent those images to his girlfriend via text message.
Two of Sadeghi’s alleged victims were cancer survivors, authorities said.
But it took only 90 minutes for a jury of six men and six women to find the breast reconstruction specialist not guilty on all four counts of video voyeurism.
The millionaire doctor faced a minimum of one year behind bars for the charges, which state law defines as recording someone without their consent “for a lewd and lascivious purpose.”
Jurors apparently did not believe Sadeghi’s recordings were sexual in nature.
Yet Sadeghi’s patients testified Tuesday that they were traumatized when informed by prosecutors of the videos.
One operating-room clip showed a woman being prepped for surgery as the song “Fun” by Pitbull and Chris Brown played. The camera “shows a sports car on a flat-screen TV, then pans over to show her entirely nude body with her face exposed,” prosecutor Laura Rodrigue told jurors, according to the Times-Picayune.
Then the doc’s cellphone camera flashed to a nurse dancing next to the 35-year-old mother-of-two, before the nearly 30-second clip ended. Sadeghi sent the video to his lady friend in July 2015, prosecutors said.
“This is how we do surgery,” Sadeghi allegedly wrote in the message to his girlfriend, a medical sales professional. She replied, “Hahaha.”
The victim, whose identity was not published by local media, was receiving hernia and “tummy tuck” procedures, the New Orleans Advocate reported.
“The idea that there is this video of my body floating around is just difficult to deal with. There’s not a day I don’t go into the shower and spend about 10 or 15 minutes crying,” the woman testified, according to the Times-Picayune.
The Algiers woman was the first of four patients to testify on Tuesday. She turned away as her video was played in court.
She said she was “mortified, horrified, just in disbelief,” when she learned of the sleazy footage. “I went to instantly wondering: How many people are going to see this video?”
Sadeghi’s patients were naked or half-naked as he filmed nurses around them and sent the pictures to his girlfriend, Rodrigue said during her opening statement.
“This case is about the rights of these four women, what they agreed to, and how this will affect the rest of their lives,” the Orleans Parish prosecutor said. “These women were under anesthesia in an operating room with a heightened sense of privacy.
“They didn’t ask for this,” she added. “Nobody would ever ask for this.”
At one point, Rodrigue told jurors, “They were going in fighting cancer, or getting their breasts reconstructed.”
The images of the women, all taken in 2015, were unearthed as part of a search warrant in a separate criminal case involving Sadeghi’s estranged wife.
The former spouse alleges that he repeatedly raped her in 2014 and, in one instance, forced a bottle inside her, according to prosecutors. (Sadeghi’s attorneys say those claims, which come during a bitter divorce, are false.)
She claimed Sadeghi forced her into sexual acts several times during their 10-year marriage while secretly taking photos. The surgeon, however, denied raping his wife and said she was aware of the webcam in their bedroom, the Advocate reported.
Sadeghi will face a separate trial for the second-degree rape charge relating to his wife, prosecutors say.
After the verdict Wednesday, defense attorney Michael Magner told reporters Sadeghi was “obviously very pleased, he’s very relieved.”
“We have to go on to the next trial on June 5, and he’s just as innocent of those charges as he is of these,” Magner added. “We’re going to go to trial and we’re going to win, because I have an innocent client.”
Magner, a former prosecutor, called the trial a “waste of time” and said it was more suited for civil court, the Times-Picayune reported. One patient has reportedly retained an attorney and is seeking $750,000 in damages from Sadeghi.
During the proceedings, Magner told jurors, “There’s nothing sexual about these pictures. There was nothing immoral about them. They’re on Dr. Sadeghi’s phone, but it’s not even clear who took these pictures.”
Meanwhile, Lisa Wayne, another lawyer on Sadeghi’s team, told the jury that the video voyeurism case is based on “a lapse of judgment” by Sadeghi and his staff, rather than a criminal act.
“He’s embarrassed for himself. He’s embarrassed for his nurses. And he’s embarrassed that these women have to come in here and talk to people about these images,” Wayne said in opening statements.
“This case is about the nurses and the doctor in the operating room acting badly, acting immaturely.… But (prosecutors) are trying to make it dirty.
“You’re going to make him a sex offender? For this?” Wayne added.
Sadeghi, according to Wayne, had a reason to send the pics: his girlfriend represented the firm behind a new medical device he was using. There was “never anything sexual” about the doctor’s footage, Wayne argued.
During Tuesday’s testimony, jurors heard from another of Sadeghi’s alleged victims: a Baton Rouge woman who had breast reconstruction done by him in May 2015 after a double mastectomy, the Times-Picayune reported.
Prosecutors presented a photo of the woman, nude from the waist down, with a nurse leaning slightly above her parted legs. A medical instrument was in the nurse’s masked mouth. Rodrigue told jurors they could infer what kind of motion the nurse was making with the tool, according to Fox 8.
Sadeghi allegedly sent this pic to nurses in a group text message.
“I thought I was in the hands of people that I trusted and I felt like I was taken advantage of,” the woman testified, according to the Times-Picayune.
The cellphone image “was not taken for medical content or for clinical reasons, as you can tell,” she told jurors. “I feel it’s morally wrong and very disturbing. I feel it’s of sexual content.”
Sadeghi’s lawyers rested their case on Wednesday without presenting a single witness. They said prosecutors failed to prove “criminal intent” in the charges. The videos show poor judgment on Sadeghi’s part but, according to Wayne, do not warrant a 15-year sex offender registration for him, the Times-Picayune reported.
The defense accused prosecutors of misleading the patients into thinking Sadeghi had distributed the images more widely, according to the Advocate.
But Rodrigue argued these pictures never made it to the women’s medical files and were therefore not likely taken for clinical purposes.
The state also presented testimony from two of Sadeghi’s surgical technicians, who testified that the images weren’t intended to be lewd or lascivious.
Prosecutors called a third alleged victim, who was photographed while unconscious and while nurses next to her flashed middle fingers for the camera.
“I didn’t understand why I had to be in that picture, or why that picture was even taken,” she said, according to the Advocate.
Defense attorney Michael Magner asked the woman, “You don’t believe that picture was intended in any way to incite lust, do you?”
“I don’t know what it was intended for,” she replied.
A fourth woman, who is a cancer survivor, was also filmed just before an 11-hour surgery in March 2015.
In the clip, the woman’s lower body was exposed as a nurse danced to a pop song by Adam Levine. She testified that she recognized herself by a tattoo on her right arm, the Times-Picayune reported.
“I was devastated,” the patient told jurors. “I don’t know if I’m going to wake up the next morning, plastered on the internet with ugly memes or anything. That’s my private area that’s out there.”
The pre-surgery videos weren’t Sadeghi’s only public troubles.
In October 2016, Sadeghi filed a lawsuit against a friend and business associate, Jason Adams, who is facing charges of his own after a high-speed crash that killed a 23-year-old passenger, Kristi Lynn Lirette.
The Lamborghini that Adams was driving—at 118 mph, while legally drunk, police say—was registered to Sadeghi, the Advocate reported.
Adams has pleaded not guilty to vehicular homicide.
Sadeghi’s lawsuit claims Adams, who was hired in 2014 to manage the books of the breast surgery center, forged checks with Sadeghi’s signature and transferred more than $4 million of the surgeon’s money to his own business.
But Adams denied the charges in court papers, saying that he was helping Sadeghi funnel $357,000 in hush money to a former employee with whom the surgeon had an affair, the Advocate reported.
Adams also claimed he helped Sadeghi invest $2 million in an office building because the doctor “wanted to remove monies from his community (property) as he was going through a ‘nasty divorce.’”