Dentist charged with groping patient seeks court order protecting cell phone

Jul. 10—A well-known Scranton dentist charged last month with groping a female patient over her clothing said a search warrant for his cell phone is too broad and asked a Lackawanna County judge to intervene. Attorneys for Dr. Albert Hazzouri on Thursday filed a motion with Judge Julia Munley for […]

Jul. 10—A well-known Scranton dentist charged last month with groping a female patient over her clothing said a search warrant for his cell phone is too broad and asked a Lackawanna County judge to intervene.

Attorneys for Dr. Albert Hazzouri on Thursday filed a motion with Judge Julia Munley for a protective order, hoping, “at the very least,” she assign a neutral party to review his phone’s contents for only those items relevant to the case, according to their motion.

In court paperwork filed by attorneys Ruth Lenahan and Paul Walker, they argue the warrant seeks to download all of his phone’s contents, including pictures, contacts, emails, texts, searches and phone logs with no specified time frame. It could include communications with his attorneys, they said, and violates his constitutional right against unreasonable search and seizure.

Deputy District Attorney Sara Varela responded Friday that the warrant is meant only to seize the phone and that a forensic download would be done later on, pending execution of a search warrant on the device itself. That makes Hazzouri’s motion “moot” at this point in the case, they argued.

“We were simply trying to seize and preserve evidence,” District Attorney Mark Powell said.

Scranton police charged Hazzouri, 65, on June 28 with indecent assault and harassment. According to a criminal complaint filed by Detective Dina Albanesi, Hazzouri grabbed a female patient inappropriately after a procedure in May.

The Times-Tribune does not identify victims of sexual assault.

On Tuesday, investigators served a sealed search warrant at Hazzouri Dental, 600 Lackawanna Ave., to seize his cell phone, which attorneys said in court filings was one of “several subjects” targeted in the warrant. However, Hazzouri did not have the phone they were looking for and Walker told investigators that it was held by “one of the attorneys on the defense team,” according to Varela’s reply.

On Wednesday, Walker told investigators he had the phone but refused to let Albanesi take it and impound it in the police department’s evidence locker, according to the court paperwork.

By Thursday, Walker and Lenahan filed a motion for a protective order and requested an expedited hearing — which was originally scheduled for Friday afternoon but was later postponed with no new date after Munley recused herself, according to a court docket.

After Walker refused, the court directed him to turn the phone over to the clerk of judicial records for safe keeping, where it remains, said Powell.

Hazzouri is scheduled for a preliminary hearing July 20. He is free on $75,000 unsecured bail.

Hazzouri and his attorneys could not be reached for comment Friday.

Contact the writer: [email protected], 570-348-9100, x5187; @jkohutTT on Twitter.

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