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Utah abortion doc explains her lie on license applications

Published April 17, 2012 1:30 pm

Salt Lake City • Nicola Riley submitted a letter as part of her discipline; fought to keep it secret.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Embattled abortion doctor Nicola Riley offered an explanation, but no apology, for lying about her theft-related criminal history on medical license applications in Utah and other states.

"As everyone now knows, twenty years ago, while serving in the military, I was convicted of a felony. The actions that led to the felony conviction caused me a profound sense of shame that I still carry with me today," the Salt Lake City doctor wrote in November to the Utah Board of Medicine.

"I did everything possible to put the past behind me. I did not want my terrible mistake to define who I was. In retrospect, I understand that I was in denial of what I had done."

The Nov. 1, 2011, letter was reviewed by The Salt Lake Tribune Tuesday through a records request. Riley, 47, has been fighting to keep it secret, though the essay was written as part of her state-ordered discipline.

The Utah Attorney General's Office would not release the letter, claiming it was protected by copyright. However, the letter's content has been available on the web site of a friend of Riley since March 18. The Tribune confirmed the Internet version is accurate by viewing the original on Tuesday.

While she fought to keep the letter private, Riley had assured officials in the discipline letter: "I know now that I must not flinch away from the past. I have no secrets to withhold."

Riley's misrepresentation on her 2004 Utah license application did not come to light until 2010, after her medical license was suspended in Maryland following a botched abortion she performed for a teenage patient there. As part of their investigation, Maryland officials accused Riley of lying about her criminal history when she applied for her Maryland license and to the University of Utah's medical school.

On her applications in Maryland, Utah and Wyoming, Riley claimed she had been convicted while in the Army for failing to promptly report that two subordinate soldiers were running a credit card scam.

In fact, she had pleaded guilty to using false identities — including using the names of fellow service members — to create credit accounts and signed receipts for more than $3,000 in earrings, watches and other jewelry.

Her application to the U.'s medical school omitted her crime and her court martial — claiming she "left the military with numerous decorations, a multitude of experiences, and friends spanning the globe," Maryland officials found.

As part of an August 2011 discipline settlement in Utah, the state's Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing ordered Riley to write a description of her "unprofessional conduct and the effects it has had on her patients and her profession."

In her letter, Riley says said she "did everything possible to continue to minimalize" what she had done because she was in denial.

After her discharge from Fort Leavenworth Military barracks in 1992, Riley said she rarely discussed her criminal actions with family and told only a few friends. She said she couldn't face reviewing her discharge papers.

"My denial was so all encompassing that it never even occurred to me to obtain another set of discharge papers after I lost the originals. I also never tried to have my record expunged," she wrote.

The month after she submitted the letter, Riley was charged with murder counts in Maryland under a fetal homicide law, in connection with the 2010 abortion. The charges were dropped in March.

Public exposure of her past has hurt her professionally and financially, she wrote, while expressing gratitude for patients and other doctors who continue to support her.

"Although my practice is a shadow of what it once was, every week there are patients that make the decision to trust me again. I feel blessed and humbled by their trust in me," she said. "Their faith in me must be repaid by giving them the best and most ethical treatment that I can. I pledge that to them." —

Read the letter

The full text of the letter physician Nicola Riley wrote to Utah licensing officials is posted on the blog: This Cultural Xtian. The blog's author, Michael McShea, has identified himself as a friend of Riley. Read the post › bit.ly/GL4u4V —

Who is Nicola Riley?

Editor's note • Check out The Salt Lake Tribune's recent two-part profile of Nicola Riley at bit.ly/AhlI8i (part 1) and bit.ly/zX80Sh (part 2)