EAGLE, Colorado - A local homeopath is accused of sexually assaulting a teenaged patient, and his trial started Tuesday.
Alfred Bamberger is charged with sexual assault on a minor by a person in a position of trust.
As opening statements and testimony began Tuesday morning, his accuser said he repeatedly touched her breasts and buttocks over a period of almost three months and in at least six of their 13 appointments. He was treating her for her worsening eczema.
One of Bamberger's attorneys, Kristen Frost, said the accuser was not familiar with alternative healing methods and misinterpreted Bamberger's actions.
The 12 jurors and two alternates - nine women, five men - listened as Frost and Deputy District Attorney Braden Angel made their opening arguments.
Bamberger calls himself a "psycho-neuro immunologist," Angel said.
"She was ready to do anything to make the pain go away, to make the cracking and bleeding of her skin heal," Angel said. "He didn't see this vulnerable little girl, he saw an opportunity."
Bamberger has helped thousands of people in this valley as a homeopathic practitioner, Frost said.
"He is a man with a special gift of healing. In February 2011 he was doing what he does best," she told the jury.
In February 2011, the poor girl could barely move, Frost said.
"Her skin, mind you, is so bad that if she moves her skin cracks and bleeds," Frost said. "He's applying it (cream) to her to help ease her pain, and she is obviously not familiar or comfortable with an alternative medicine environment."
Their two worlds collided in January 2010.
During her testimony, the alleged victim said she'd been to at least a half dozen doctors for help with her skin condition, reciting a long list of physicians.
"Did any of those other doctors ask you to disrobe?" asked Colleen Clark, one of the deputy district attorneys prosecuting Bamberger.
"No," she answered.
"Are you comfortable testifying here today?" Clark asked.
"No, it's hard testifying in front of a jury," she answered.
The petite young woman was composed during her five hours of testimony.
After the third or fourth session, her skin condition had worsened. He asked that her parents not come to the next session, she said. He told her they'd be doing relaxation therapy and her parents didn't need to be there because they'd stress her out, she said.
When the relaxation therapy sessions started, she said they'd talk about things that were stressing her. As they did, Bamberger told her, "It's OK. You're beautiful. You can get through this," she said.
Eventually, he asked her to take her clothes off, she said.
When she hesitated he told her, "I've seen dozens of women's bodies. I'm a doctor," she said.
The first time she disrobed down to her bra and underwear. Eventually, he told her to stop wearing her bra and underwear entirely, she said.
She'd lie down on her back on his massage table. The first few times she applied the creams to her private areas. Eventually, he applied cream "everywhere," she said.
"The last few times it felt like I was being touched in a different way," she said. "It felt weirder than it ever had."
She trusted Bamberger, she said.
"The first few times it felt uncomfortable, but I didn't want to argue with my doctor," she said. "I felt like I was being violated, but I trusted him. He was my doctor. I did what he said."
His behavior changed when her parents weren't there, she said.
About every session he told her she was beautiful and that he loved her, she said.
That last session started the same way.
"I was taken into the massage room and I disrobed. He applied cream all over ... everywhere," she said.
During the relaxation session that followed, she said he told her to picture herself walking down a dirt road, that she saw him and they were glad to see each other. He touched her left breast and told her, "That's your heart. You're happy in your heart," then he pulled his hand away, she said.
Toward the end of that last session, his iPhone went off. He asked if she had an email address that her parents checked, she said.
She told her mother she felt awkward, that he made her feel uncomfortable and didn't want to see him any more.
She told her mother that while they were hugging he'd say, "You're so beautiful. I love you so much. It's going to be OK," she said.
She put some questions on Yahoo, asking for advice. She talked to her mother and one friend.
Eventually, she and her mom decided to go to the police.
"I did trust him and I did care about him as a grandfather," she said. "I knew what he did was wrong, but I was concerned about how people would respond to it."
Her initial interview with Eagle County Sheriff's Office detective Tim Dooley lasted one hour and 45 minutes.
In that interview she said she didn't think he had sexually assaulted her. She said she changed her mind since then. She didn't know what sexual assault was; now she does, she said.
"I took a step back and realized that no doctor should touch a patient in that way," she said. "He was my doctor and I trusted him. He told me it was a medical procedure and he'd done that with other women."
"I had felt uncomfortable going to see the doctor for the last five sessions because things just got weirder and weirder," she said. "It was that 13th session that sent me over the edge."
"When you're that sick you do what your doctor tells you. I didn't think at the time he was trying to sexually assault me."
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.