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Jury finds Blankenburg guilty

HAMILTON, Ohio (AP) - A pediatrician was convicted Friday of 16 sex-related charges involving former patients as his twin brother, a pediatrician awaiting trial on similar counts, looked on and embraced his brother after the verdict.

Dr. Mark Blankenburg, 53, of Hamilton, stood before the verdicts were delivered, as ordered by a judge, but sat down as they were read.

Four men had testified that Mark Blankenburg molested or performed sex acts on them when they were teenagers. The sex charges involved only three of the accusers. The sex-related allegations made by the fourth accuser did not meet a legal deadline required to bring criminal charges. Defense attorneys have said the sex allegations are false and that accusers extorted money and drugs from the doctor. They had no comment after the verdict.

The Butler County jury deliberated for about 13 hours over two days before convicting Blankenburg of gross sexual imposition, corruption of a minor, pandering sexually oriented matter involving a minor, compelling prostitution and complicity to compelling prostitution.

His twin brother, Scott Blankenburg , faces trial on 22 similar charges including sex-related counts and counts of bribery, money laundering and compelling prostitution in April. He does not face any drug counts. Scott Blankenburg walked into the courtroom shortly before the verdict was read and hugged and kissed his brother goodbye before a deputy led Mark Blankenburg away in handcuffs.

The judge revoked Mark Blankenburg's bond and ordered that he be taken to the county jail. The doctors' father and sister also were in court for the verdict but would not comment as they left.

One of the accusers who testified against Mark Blankenburg also was there and said the trial had been tough, but the verdict was very important to him. The Associated Press does not identify sexual assault victims.

"Every time I heard a guilty it was like I felt a jolt run through me," he said.

The accuser said a big part of his life has now been put behind him.

"I can start over," he said.

A friend of both Blankenburgs was upset about the verdict. Sean Stockstill, 23, said Mark Blankenburg, who was also his pediatrician, has been a good friend to him and his family and to the city of Hamilton. Stockstill said the doctor never harmed him.

"There's not a single mean thing on his body," Stockstill said.

The defense had constantly challenged the accusers' credibility, with one of the victims serving a prison sentence for attempting to kill a deputy and another having a criminal record. Assistant Prosecutor Jason Phillabaum said he thinks the jury found the accusers believable and their stories compelling.

The guilty verdict also means "children are going to be safer," he said.

Phillabaum said Mark Blankenburg could receive up to 75 years in prison. Mark Blankenburg is also accused of giving his patients money and prescription drugs to keep quiet about the alleged molestation. Judge Keith Spaeth will determine whether he is guilty of 25 remaining counts including bribery, money laundering and drug trafficking. Spaeth said he will rule in the "coming days or weeks."

The judge also is to schedule a trial date on 12 pornography charges against Mark Blankenburg that were severed from the first trial. The investigation into Mark Blankenburg began in October 2007 after the State Medical Board of Ohio received a tip about allegedly improper prescription writing. Prosecutors say investigators learned of sex-abuse claims from one of the accusers when the man was being questioned about prescriptions the doctor had written for him.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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