Dr. Thomas Tyma Sentenced to 60 Days in Jail for Sexually Assaulting Patients
The rheumatologist, who formerly practiced in Wexford, was led away in handcuffs after sentencing.
Dr. Thomas Tyma was led away from court in handcuffs this morning after a judge sentenced him to 60 days in jail, a year of house arrest and six years of probation for touching former female patients inappropriately.
Common Pleas Court Judge Donna Jo McDaniel pronounced the sentence after hearing testimony from Tyma's family and three female victims.
In March, McDaniel found Tyma guilty of 17 counts of indecent assault and 16 counts of harassment on women who were examined at Allegheny North Arthritis Center in Wexford, UPMC Passavant and Jameson South in New Castle, Lawrence County.
Most of the women testified that he had touched their breasts inappropriately, sometimes asking if they had had a breast exam recently.
Tyma's attorney, William H. Difenderfer, said he was "very relieved and pleased with the sentence. It could have been worse."
He said he is exploring options now and "most likely will file an appeal."
McDaniel spoke sternly to the 55-year-old rheumatologist from Franklin Park before sentencing.
"Thomas Tyma, you have hurt so many people," McDaniel said, as she referred to his family and patients.
The judge said she found it particularly offensive that he targeted women who were vulnerable.
During the trial, victims told the court of their painful physical and emotional conditions as well as personal tragedies that were affecting their lives at the time they were touched inappropriately by Tyma.
As a victim finished her testimony today, McDaniel told Tyma that his "antics" in the courtroom were not helping him. She later explained that Tyma had been shaking his head and acting "dismissive."
"Your attitude in this trial and sentencing did not make this court think you are a good person," the judge said.
At the start of today's proceedings, Tyma's daughter Meredith, son Alex and wife Cathy told the judge of their support for him in shaky voices that were barely audible in the cavernous courtroom.
"The family stands by him. ... I stand by him," Meredith Tyma testified.
"He is a family man through and through," Alex Tyma said. "He is my father, my mentor, my personal hero."
Dr. Cathy Tyma described her husband as "the most respectful man I have ever known. ... a devoted husband and father ... beloved by his patients."
The three victims who testified painted a picture of a doctor they trusted who caused them shame and embarrassment. Other victims seated in the courtroom chose not to speak.
One victim who spoke with the media after the sentencing, Gina Joseph-Smiley, said she was "very happy he got what he deserved." (Patch usually does not publish the names of sexual assault victims, but Joseph-Smiley gave permission for her name to be used.)
During the trial and sentencing, Joseph-Smiley lamented that she waited a year to come forward and report Tyma.
For 15 years she worked as a social worker who talking to people about sticking up for themselves and doing what is right, she said. She described herself as a health-care professional and pharmaceutical sales person who serviced Tyma's office.
Joseph-Smiley said she was Tyma's patient for 10 years and nothing inappropriate happened until her last visit.
Fear of not being believed, of losing her job and health insurance kept her from reporting the offense, she said.
Once she saw five women had stepped forward to report assaults, she said she thought she would be believed.
"I feel he is a sick individual," she told the media gathered around her after the sentencing.
The victims testified that they felt shame and embarrassment.
McDaniel told them there was no reason to feel that way, "You did nothing wrong."
The first victim to testify said her health-care information—which she thought was confidential—is now part of court records that are open to the public.
When she signed the complaint against Tyma, she gave up her privacy, she said.
Because of the case, she had to go through the shame and embarrassment of revealing the assault to her husband and children, she said. Also, she had to reveal her lupus diagnosis to colleagues and co-workers and she said she felt they treated her differently afterward.
She said it was "horrific" that Tyma disclosed her medical information in court during the trial, which made it part of the public record.
"Trust" is the key to the health-care field in which she works, she said, and now she finds herself doubting herself and other people's motives.
Smiley-Joseph said her primary care physician of 20-plus years, who she also considered a friend, treated her like she was a "crazed individual" after she reported being assaulted by Tyma.
When she fractured her hand, it took eight months to find someone to treat her because health-care professionals considered her a "problem patient," she said.
The third woman to testify said it was a "devastating experience for me and the women who had the courage to come forward."
She no longer has faith in the medical profession, she said, and is distraught when she has to see a doctor.
She went to a doctor seeking help and instead was assaulted, she said.
The victims said they agreed with the judge's surmissal that Tyma sought victims who were vulnerable.
Many of those testifying at the trial explained that while they were battling physical issues that sometimes involved a great deal of pain, they also were dealing with loved ones who were gravely ill.
A victim who spoke to the media, but preferred to remain anonymous, commended the judge for finding Tyma guilty and sending him to jail.
"If I can't trust a doctor, who can I trust?" a victim stated. "Just because a man puts on a white coat does not make him a God."