Surgeon awaiting trial violated terms of release

A Hettinger surgeon currently waiting to stand trial in Oregon for multiple felony counts of sexual assault recently violated terms of his release after being cited for driving under intoxication, according to court records.


By BRYCE MARTIN | ND Group Editor |

Robert John Gustafson, a practicing physician at West River Health Services in Hettinger, pleaded not guilty last month to a Class-B misdemeanor count of driving while under the influence.

Gustafson waived his right to appear in a Morton County courtroom for an initial appearance, according to a waiver filed with the court on Jan. 11 by which he also entered his plea.

Gustafson, 46, was taken to a local hospital after he sustained injuries Dec. 13 when he struck a vehicle in Morton County.

In a citation issued by the North Dakota Highway Patrol, it was stated that Gustafson being under the influence “contributed materially” to the crash.

He was also charged with a Class-B misdemeanor charge of reckless driving.

As a result of his charges in North Dakota, a status conference has been scheduled for next week in Clatsop County, Ore., where Gustafson is waiting to stand trial on 12 counts of sexual assault of a minor.

In a Jan. 18 memorandum from the Clatsop County Circuit Court, it was stated that Gustafson had violated his conditions of release by receiving a DUI citation. The court maintains the current level of security so long as he reported to the scheduled treatment program and remained there until his successful discharge, the memorandum stated.

Due to the violation, according to the document, the court reserves the right to modify or revoke his release at any time it becomes aware of further violations.

The felony jury trial for Gustafson’s Oregon case has been scheduled for Aug. 2, after the state successful sought a continuance due to additional aspects of the case that were discovered.

According to court records, the investigation into Gustafson’s offenses now involves events that allegedly occurred in South Dakota, where the complaining witness once resided with Gustafson.

A video was discovered where the complaining witness was interviewed by a professional child interviewer at a child safety center in Rapid City, S.D. During that interview, the complaining witness indicated she had not been sexually abused by Gustafson.

Gustafson pleaded not guilty last July to 12 total counts related to the alleged sexual abuse of a teenage girl in Oregon.

Gustafson began working in November 2014 as a surgeon specializing in laparoscopic surgery at the West River Health Services hospital in Hettinger. He had relocated to the area from South Dakota and had previously worked at a hospital in Spearfish, S.D.

According to court records filed in Clatsop County Circuit Court in Oregon, Gustafson was charged with 10 counts of first-degree sexual abuse and two counts of first-degree encouraging child sexual abuse related to the alleged 2-year sexual abuse of a girl in Clatsop County, Ore. The abuse was said to have begun in 2009 when she was “not yet 14 years old,” according to a court complaint.

Bail for Gustafson was set at $250,000. He was ordered to avoid contact with minors unless it was necessary to his occupation but was allowed to leave the state.

2 thoughts on “Surgeon awaiting trial violated terms of release

  1. Sounds more like a stalking criminal rammed his car just to prompt the arrest, which in turn would prompt the violation of terms.

  2. Elllen Ketterling

    - Edit

    Great news. With the new evidence from South Dakota, it looks like Dr. Gusafson will be declared innocent and be able to put the court case and an ugly divorce behind him, and continue serving our community with needed surgical services. We look forward to it!

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