The women had separately reported to authorities years ago that a male nurse had sexually abused them while they stayed at Salt Lake County hospitals.
Months ago, they came to a Salt Lake City courtroom and testified at the trial of 54-year-old Adam Tae Kyun Lim.
A jury found him guilty, based on their accounts of how he touched them in ways no other health care worker had done before.
But when it came to coming back to that courtroom Friday for Lim’s sentencing hearing, the three women couldn’t do it.
It’s still too painful, prosecutor Kaye Lynn Wootton told the judge, to see the man who violated them when he should have cared for them, to relive the pain he caused.
“He was assigned as a registered nurse to care for extremely sick women,” Wootton told the judge. “He did not honor that position of trust. He took advantage of them and sexually abused them.”
Third District Judge Vernice Trease gave Lim the maximum sentence possible Friday, ordering him to serve two indeterminate five-year-to-life sentences for two counts of object rape and a one-to-15 term for a conviction of forcible sexual abuse.
The judge ordered the sentences to run consecutive, or back to back, to one another, meaning he’ll serve at least 11 years before he’ll get a first parole hearing. The Utah parole board will have the ultimate say in how much time Lim spends behind bars.
Lim plans to appeal his conviction and did not speak during Friday’s sentencing hearing.
His attorney, Clayton Simms, had not opposed a prison sentence — but had asked the judge to keep in mind that Lim has no previous criminal history, does not have issues with drugs or alcohol and is an active member of his church.
A jury found Lim guilty of the three charges after deliberating for about two hours in October.
During the trial, the three women — who do not know one another — testified that they were touched inappropriately by the nurse while they were 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 considering charges filed in connection to only the three women’s reports, a dozen patients in total have come forward in the past 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.
Simms argued at trial that Lim was 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 vulnerable positions. She noted the “unbelievable” similarities between the women’s accounts.
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 City 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 Wootton said prosecutors had asked for one charge to be dismissed on the eve of trial because the alleged victim was not healthy enough to testify. Other cases could not be prosecuted because the legal deadline for filing charges had passed.
One of the victims who testified 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 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.