This week, several Jacksonville Florida news sources released a story consisting of several parents accusing a local dentist of abusing his patients. These are not just any patients that the dentist is accused of hurting; they are small children. All week long, I have seen many posts on Facebook about this story and this dentist. Many people have been calling for this man to be severely punished. As a Jacksonville criminal lawyer, I have been tagged in posts about this dentist. In one case, someone I have not seen in 15 years tagged me in a post. I am assuming that the only reason for tagging me is because I am lawyer in Jacksonville FL. I am a Jacksonville criminal defense attorney. As such, I understand that the law requires us to presume that a person is innocent until proven guilty. I know nothing about this case. In fact, these accusations just surfaced this week. How can I rush to judge this man? He may be guilty as charged. He may be a victim of false accusations. I just do not know. As I read the comments related to the news story and the comments on Facebook, I see that everyone else must know something that I do not. I cannot form an opinion yet due to the lack of information.
I can say that the accusations have surely affected Dr. Howard Schneider’s business. Not only are there news stories and shared Facebook posts about the alleged abuses, but there have also been people protesting outside of his dental office. The Florida Attorney General’s Office is conducting a criminal investigation on the matter. Schneider has responded to this news and the accusation. Fox News of Jacksonville reported:
“Schneider spoke out for the first time from the steps of his home in Riverside. ‘I am very pissed off. That’s the only word I can use,’ Schneider told Action News. ‘I’m a good dentist. I do nothing wrong. I give these kids the best treatment. Somebody started a deal and they’re preying on it. And I’m tired of it’…. The State Attorney General’s Office has an active criminal investigation against Schneider, something he said he knows nothing about. ’ I haven’t done anything. I don’t know about a criminal thing,’ Schneider said. The details of that investigation have not been made public, but Action News cameras were there as Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office detectives also met with parents outside Schneider’s office Wednesday.”
Naturally, the parents of the injured children and the protestors want action now. “Protestor and parent of a former patient, Justine King, said parents can’t afford to wait. ‘I hope that they freeze him and not let him work on any more kids until the investigation is complete and his doors are closed,’ King said.” I have not seen anything on the news about a civil suit being file based on the current accusations, but in my experience as a Jacksonville attorney, civil suits usually go hand-in-hand with these kind of allegations. Fox News did report that “a local law firm is working with parents who have questions about Schneider’s billing practices” and that “Schneider was the defendant in two professional malpractice suits in Duval County in 1995.”
The Florida Board of Dentistry is another agency that maybe conducting an investigation into this Jacksonville dentist’s practices. First Coast News stated:
“We learned however the public won’t know if they are involved because their investigation is confidential until a conclusion is reached. ‘The Florida Department of Health and Board of Dentistry are the state agencies charged with initiating and leading investigations surrounding complaints,’ said Drew Eason, Executive Director of the Florida Dental Association. ‘Ultimately, the Board of Dentistry will make a decision on what action to take following an investigation.’”
As for my opinion as a Jacksonville criminal lawyer, I have none at this time. I do not think that it is fair to judge without knowing more. I do find it strange that the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has been involved with Dr. Schneider’s office before. First Coast news stated, “The two times JSO was called to Dr. Schneider’s office, both calls dealt with excessive use of force by the dentist to a young patient. Those calls came in 2001 and 2013.” What happened with these two claims? Was a thorough investigation conducted? If so, why were charges not filed? These are questions that will likely be asked as investigators dig deeper.