Monday, March 17, 2008

'Highly regarded' doctor charged in teen sex case

A "highly regarded" Wilmette doctor faces sexual assault and child pornography charges stemming from his relationship with a 17-year-old girl, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Robert Hughes, 48, was ordered held on $500,000 bond at a court hearing in Skokie. He faces 4 to 15 years in prison if convicted of criminal sexual assault and manufacturing child pornography.

A neighbor in Hughes' apartment building Wednesday described Hughes as "a very wonderful person" and "highly regarded." The neighbor, who didn't want her name used, also said Hughes counts some of the residents in his building as patients.

The alleged crimes took place at Hughes' apartment in the 700 block of Ridge Road in Wilmette. "The defendant had a habit, since he separated from his wife, of allowing teenagers to come to his apartment to do drugs and drink," Assistant State's Attorney Cathy Crowley said.

The alleged victim "had a substance abuse problem," Crowley said. She said Hughes met the 17-year-old through another teen and gave her "the means of obtaining and taking illegal drugs like heroin and cocaine."

Crowley said Hughes gave her money to buy drugs, drove her to the West Side of Chicago to buy them, and gave her clean needles to use.

The relationship began in autumn 2007 and lasted until February, Crowley said. The girl's parents became concerned about their daughter's behavior and evidence she had drugs and money, a source said. They also "saw some questionable e-mails," a source said.

Hughes allegedly paid the girl money to perform lewd acts, which he would videotape. Her proceeds went to purchase drugs, Crowley said. Hughes also gave the girl prescription drugs, though he was not her treating physician, she said.

At one point, the girl's parents put her in rehab, and Hughes "used his position as a doctor to get access to her four times," Crowley said.

A 1984 graduate of the University of Illinois College of Medicine, Hughes practices family medicine in Buffalo Grove with the Advocate Medical Group. His lawyer could not be reached for comment.

Wilmette Police arrested Hughes on Monday after the girl's parents contacted police. They had discovered a text message from Hughes to their daughter offering "to transport their daughter to a location in Chicago to purchase illegal narcotics," police said in a statement.

"It took an act of courage for the parents and the victim to come forward to report these incidents," Deputy Chief Brian King said.

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