Utah nurse found guilty of sexually assaulting three patients

Adam Lim. Courtesy | Salt Lake County Sheriff

A jury has found a Utah nurse guilty of sexually assaulting three patients who were in his care while they were hospitalized in Salt Lake County facilities.

Adam Tae Kyun Lim, 54, was charged with three felonies, two counts of first-degree felony object rape and a charge of second-degree felony forcible sexual abuse. A jury of five men and three women found him guilty on all counts Thursday evening after deliberating for about two hours.

Lim faces a sentence of up to life in prison on each count of object rape and a 1-to-15 year term for the forcible sexual abuse charge. His sentencing is set for Dec. 7.

The nurse was led away in handcuffs after the verdict was read Thursday evening.

Three women, who do not know one another, testified on Wednesday that they were touched inappropriately by the nurse while they were being hospitalized for serious illnesses. Their allegations ranged from a 2009 report at St. Mark’s Hospital that Lim touched a woman’s genitals, to a February 2014 complaint that Lim touched a patient similarly at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray. A third woman testified Lim groped her chest while she was hospitalized at Intermountain Medical in December 2015.

Though the jury was only considering charges filed in connection to the three women’s reports, a dozen patients in total have come forward in the last decade complaining that Lim had violated them during stays at various Salt Lake County hospitals and facilities where the nurse has been employed over the years.

Kaye Lynn Wootton, a prosecutor with the Utah attorney general’s Medicaid Fraud Unit, said after the verdict that the time was right to bring the case to a jury. She said in the jury finding Lim guilty, “justice has been served” for the victims.

“This was a case where, maybe at any given time, it wasn’t possible to see what had happened or to decide if it was something that should be prosecuted,” Wootton told The Salt Lake Tribune. “But when all of those [cases] came together, the evidence became clear that this individual needed to be held accountable, and these victims decided to tell their story.”

Defense attorney Clayton Simms left the courthouse Thursday evening with Lim’s sobbing wife, and was not immediately available for comment on the verdict. It’s not clear whether Lim will appeal the jury’s decision.

Simms said during his closing argument earlier that day that his client is innocent and that the women, who were all taking pain medications, could have been mistaken about what happened.

“He’s Korean, his English isn’t necessarily the best,” Simms told jurors. “He’s a night male nurse. Could they be confused about things? If you’re on 14 medications, probably.”

Wootton argued the women were not mistaken — they were taken advantage of by a nurse who knew they were in a vulnerable position. She noted the “unbelievable” similarities between the women’s accounts.

“Hospitals have to be safe places where patients can go get the care that they need professionally when they can’t care for themselves,” she argued. “That is not what happened in this case.”

All three women testified Wednesday that the inappropriate touching has had lasting effects on their lives. They avoid being in hospitals and don’t want to be treated by male nurses. They fear men.

“It’s really taken a toll,” one alleged victim testified.

Public records show patients had complained about Lim at several Salt Lake County hospitals and rehabilitation centers where he has worked since finishing nursing school in 2005. At least four facilities — St. Mark’s Hospital, Jordan Valley Medical Center’s West Valley campus, Intermountain Medical Center and a rehabilitation center not identified in public documents — received at least one complaint of inappropriate touching, according to public records. St. Mark’s and Intermountain each had at least four.

The earliest complaint documented in public records came in 2006, when a patient at St. Mark’s told her physician that Lim had touched her genitals and laid down on top of her with his pants down. Eleven more complaints trickled in over the years, no matter where he worked. The most recent allegation was in January 2016, when a patient at Intermountain Medical alleged Lim touched her breasts inappropriately.

Lim initially had faced charges in connection to four women’s accounts, but Wootten said they had asked for one charge to be dismissed on the eve of trial because the alleged victim was not healthy enough to come to court and testify.

One of the alleged victims who testified Wednesday settled a civil lawsuit earlier this year alleging that Intermountain Medical should have done a more thorough background check before hiring Lim and a better internal investigation after patients complained.

That woman and the other alleged victim who was hospitalized at Intermountain Medical currently having pending civil lawsuits against Lim’s previous employers, alleging the facilities should have reported him to state licensing officials after they fired him for similar misconduct. The women assert in separate lawsuits that St. Mark’s Hospital and Holladay Healthcare Center failed to protect them by not reporting to authorities, and failed to tell Intermountain Medical officials the true reason Lim was fired.