Psychologist Burton Hollenbeck sentenced to six months in jail for patient sexual assault
July 18, 2013
LACONIA — A Richmond psychologist was sentenced to six months in jail Tuesday after he pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a former patient over several months in 2008.
Burton G. Hollenbeck Jr., 60, spent nearly two hours in Belknap County Superior Court Tuesday afternoon listening to statements from several of the victim’s family members that were read aloud by prosecutors. The victim also read her own impact statement, explaining that while she believed at one time that she was in love with Hollenbeck, she now recognizes that he used his training to take advantage of her.
Standing at a podium, between her husband and a victim advocate, the victim asked Judge Kenneth R. McHugh to make her family’s five-year legal ordeal mean something, and to sentence Hollenbeck to “at least five years in prison, so we could be free for the next five years ... he stole so much from us because of his actions. I want to do what I can to get that time back.”
Hollenbeck, who practiced in Keene, asked McHugh to give him a suspended sentence, adding that he’s learned his lesson after being forced to turn in his license to practice psychology.
McHugh ultimately went with Assistant Hillsborough County Attorney John H. Harding’s recommendation of six months in jail for Hollenbeck.
“This wasn’t a one-day event, and then a recognition the next day that the conduct was totally inappropriate,” McHugh said. “It began a pattern of abuse over a period of 10 months.”
Hollenbeck was indicted in 2010 on 30 counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault by a Cheshire County grand jury, accused of having sex with his former patient between February and December 2008, less than a year after her therapy sessions with him ended, which violates state law.
He turned in his license to practice when the charges were filed in 2010.
Later that year, Hollenbeck argued that the state violated his rights by making his private sex life between consenting adults criminal. A Cheshire County Superior Court judge agreed and dismissed the charges.
The prosecution appealed to the N.H. Supreme Court, which reinstated the charges and ordered prosecutors to hold an evidence hearing before they could go to trial, meaning the victim would have to take the stand twice. Prosecutors preferred to avoid that, Hillsborough County Attorney Patricia M. LaFrance said previously.
Last month, the prosecution reached a plea deal in which Hollenbeck would plead guilty to a single count of felony second-degree assault.
Hollenbeck began treating the victim’s husband and later provided marriage counseling to both. He later asked the victim for one-on-one sessions after he found out she had been sexually abused as a teenager, according to separate civil lawsuits filed by the husband and victim that were on hold until the criminal charges were resolved.
In early 2008, Hollenbeck pursued the victim romantically, and bought her golf equipment, gold and pearl earrings and paid for her car insurance, according to the lawsuit.
In court Tuesday, the victim said she now knows she was experiencing transference at the time of her affair with Hollenbeck, who is also married. Transference is defined in psychoanalysis as the process by which emotions associated with one person unconsciously shift to another, especially a therapist.
“It is important for you to know that Dr. Hollenbeck knew what he was doing was illegal,” she told McHugh. “Had he taken the time to explain transference to me, I think things would’ve gone a different way.”
The victim said Hollenbeck has the makings of a “perfect sex offender ... because he had schooling for it, hands-on experience, and seven years of learning everything about my husband and me, all the ammunition ... he portrayed himself as my protector and savior.”
When her new therapist explained transference to her, the victim said she knew there was no way she could have been involved in a consensual relationship with Hollenbeck.
The victim said after the first time she and Hollenbeck had sexual intercourse, “He said, ‘I’m sorry, I just raped you,’ “ she said.
The victim said at the time she thought he was apologizing for getting her drunk, or pursuing physical intimacy despite her previous assertions that she wanted to wait until both were divorced.
“Now I knew what he meant,” she said. “He had a moment of guilt, but he didn’t let that stop him from moving forward.”
In a statement read aloud by Harding, the victim’s new therapist said that people in her profession are specifically trained to recognize when a patient shows signs of transference, and are equipped with a variety of methods to handle it.
When the victim told her husband about the relationship and decided to end it in December 2008, she said in court Tuesday that Hollenbeck’s behavior became frightening, including one encounter that she said ended with Hollenbeck raping her in his office.
After she obtained an emergency protective order, Hollenbeck continued to stalk and harass her, the victim said.
In court, she read text messages and played voice message recordings sent to her by Hollenbeck over the course of four hours one morning that became increasingly erratic.
In one voice message, Hollenbeck was angry with the victim: “Listen, (expletive), give me a (expletive) call. Who do you think you’re dealing with here? Just because you look spectacular doesn’t mean you can (blow me off). I’m not (expletive) joking.”
The victim then played voice messages in which Hollenbeck claimed to have her pet parrot and indicated he would kill it if she didn’t respond. That message was followed by another in which Hollenbeck pretended to be the parrot crying for help.
“I’ve been so emotionally wrecked the last four years,” she told McHugh. “I’ve been crying daily, I lost my job because I had no ability to focus, I felt paranoid ... it would be nice to go to the store with my kids or alone, to go to dinner with my husband, without fear of running into him ... knowing without a doubt that Dr. Hollenbeck will not be there.”
Hollenbeck addressed McHugh Tuesday, saying that he’s been humbled by his new job as a janitor who cleans toilets and runs into former clients when they use the restrooms.
“I want to express my profound remorse, and sincere apologies for all the harm I’ve done,” he said. “Their anger towards me doesn’t compare to my own self-loathing.”
The Hillsborough County Attorney’s Office prosecuted the case because of a conflict of interest in Cheshire County, where Hollenbeck had previously been an expert witness in court cases. Tuesday’s sentencing took place in Belknap County because that’s where McHugh was scheduled to sit this month.
Harding said this morning that Hollenbeck was also ordered to pay restitution to the victim and her family of about $50,000.
“I’m gratified for the victim and her family,” he said. “I think they have been through a lot, and I’m glad that the case ended favorably for them.”
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