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Fargo pediatrician probed by licensing board previously investigated by police

FARGO -- A Fargo pediatrician whose medical license is suspended pending a probe by the state licensing board was once investigated by police over allegations that he sexually abused his son for years.

William Blake Mausbach, 41, is seen Tuesday, May 17, 2016, outside his Fargo home.Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
William Blake Mausbach, 41, is seen Tuesday, May 17, 2016, outside his Fargo home.Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

FARGO -- A Fargo pediatrician whose medical license is suspended pending a probe by the state licensing board was once investigated by police over allegations that he sexually abused his son for years.

After an investigation conducted in 2011 and 2012, police closed the case without recommending any charges, and the physician, Dr. Thomas W. Mausbach, denied the allegations both to police at the time and in a recent interview with The Forum.

One of Mausbach's sons, William Blake Mausbach, told police his father molested him beginning when he was 15 years old and continuing for years, until he suffered a traumatic brain injury, according to detectives' reports obtained through an open records request by The Forum. He made the same allegations in recent interviews with The Forum.

In addition, Mausbach is being investigated by the North Dakota Board of Medicine. The Forum has learned that the 68-year-old doctor's husband, whom he married in 2014, submitted a sworn statement on March 30 to the Board of Medicine. There's no indication from the licensing board about what it is investigating, but the doctor's husband told The Forum he made the board aware of the earlier molestation investigation.

Mausbach hasn't seen patients since the day his husband provided the statement to the medical board, according to Sanford Health, where he practiced part time.

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"Dr. Mausbach signed a non-practice agreement with the North Dakota Board of Medicine, therefore he could no longer fulfill his contractual obligations with Sanford, so we elected to terminate the employment contract," Dr. James Volk, a Sanford senior executive vice president said in a statement to The Forum.

On April 11, Mausbach signed an agreement to immediately suspend his medical license until the board's investigation is complete.

Mausbach and his lawyer denounce the allegations apparently made by the doctor's husband, which they deny and contend were motivated by bitter divorce proceedings and the impact a divorce could have on the immigration status of his spouse, who emigrated from China. The nature of the husband's statement provided to the medical board is confidential due to the pending investigation.

"This is all his ploy," Mausbach said of the information his husband provided the medical board. "I'm not going to comment on this garbage. They're not true."


'Too much pressure'

In interviews with police that are documented in investigative reports, Mausbach's son, now 41, said his father would sneak into his bedroom late at night, while he was sleeping, and fondle him. The son, who goes by his middle name, told police the alleged abuse occurred three or four times a week, police reports say.

But Blake Mausbach, who is disabled from a brain injury suffered in an assault in 1998 after the alleged molestation occurred, told detectives early on in the investigation that he wanted to "take back everything" and did not want to press charges because he was early in his sobriety. Diagnosed with bipolar disorder and hospitalized several times for psychiatric treatment, he recently told The Forum he still struggles to stay sober.

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"I was getting nervous," Blake Mausbach said in an interview with The Forum, explaining why he ultimately asked police not to pursue charges against his father, a respected physician. "It was too much pressure for me. It was the beginning of my sobriety."

In fact, he said, he suffered a relapse he attributed to the strain of interviews with Fargo police during the investigation, which spanned more than five months. Police often investigate these sorts of allegations even if the alleged victim withdraws them.

Though The Forum typically doesn't identify alleged victims of sexual crimes without their consent, Blake Mausbach agreed to be identified for this story.

Thomas Mausbach continues to deny his son's allegations and argues his son is not credible because of several drunken driving arrests, psychiatric treatments and his bipolar disorder.

"My son retracted all the charges," he said in a recent interview with The Forum. "That's a past matter that was certainly resolved in my favor."

The agreement Thomas Mausbach signed April 11 to suspend his medical license does not specify what the board is reviewing, and it notes that agreeing to stop practicing is not an admission of fault. Duane Houdek, executive secretary of the North Dakota Board of Medicine, said the law prohibits him from discussing what prompted the investigation.

"I can't comment on our investigation," Houdek said. "These investigations are confidential until they are complete. Any action that we do is public."

The agreement Mausbach signed with the Board of Medicine said the information it obtained concerning Mausbach will be reviewed by an investigative panel no later than its July meeting.

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Mausbach has never been disciplined by the medical board, Houdek said.

Sanford has not received "any patient complaints where professional boundaries have been violated or crossed," Volk said in the statement about Mausbach released to The Forum.

"The safety of our patients and the quality of care they receive is our top priority," he said.

All Sanford physicians, Volk added in the statement, undergo "rigorous" federal and state criminal background checks, including sex offenses and sex offender registries at the time they're hired and every two years.

Mausbach's part-time employment at Sanford began in 2011 several months after he left Essentia Health, where he worked as a pediatrician for 35 years, beginning in 1976.

Essentia declined comment except to say that Mausbach's employment there ended in March 2011.

Mausbach said his departure from Essentia had nothing to do with the molestation allegations his son made nine months later in 2011. He said he left because, at age 64, he wanted to reduce his schedule to part time, and Essentia's staffing level couldn't accommodate that request.


Fight led to split

Thomas Mausbach's husband provided his statement to the North Dakota Board of Medicine about six weeks after they were involved in a domestic disturbance.

Because he is gay and faces being sent back to his native China, the 36-year-old man asked not to be identified due to concerns that he could face anti-gay reprisals in his home country. He asked to be identified by his nickname, Bobby.

Police were called to their apartment in south Fargo on the evening of Feb. 12. In his statement to police, Mausbach said the disturbance started as an argument over furniture. Another roommate was moving out, and there was a disagreement about who would keep a desk.

Mausbach told police his spouse twice hit him with an open hand across the chest, causing him pain, and said he went into the bathroom, where he stayed until police arrived, an investigating officer wrote in his report.

The officer's report noted redness on Mausbach's chest, but he said he could not determine if it was caused by Bobby.

Bobby, whom Mausbach married in San Francisco in 2014, told police the argument stemmed from another male who also was living in the apartment, according to a deputy's report.

Mausbach's name is redacted in the police reports of the incident, obtained by The Forum in an open records request, but he is named in a civil court action in which Bobby sought a restraining order after the domestic dispute. In the civil case, Mausbach is described as the victim in an affidavit from another man that refers to the Feb. 12 incident at the apartment.

Bobby told the deputy Mausbach struck his lip and chin with his right hand, but he was fine and didn't have any pain from the strike, according to the incident report. In his report, the deputy said he did not observe any redness or marks on Bobby, or redness or swelling on Bobby's hands.

After giving up his job and former life in China, and immigrating to the United States to marry Mausbach, Bobby told The Forum he was unhappy to learn that Mausbach still maintained contact with two other young Chinese men that he had helped immigrate.

Mausbach's ex-wife, Betty Lynn Mausbach, in their 2013 divorce case, contended that Mausbach had spent extravagantly on travel and other expenses for another young man he'd met in China and brought to Fargo in about 2009. That man was not Bobby.

One of the other Chinese men, who had been living in the apartment before Bobby arrived in April 2015, signed a sworn statement in the civil case over a restraining order saying he did not witness the altercation but believed Bobby was the instigator. He said he saw "extensive bruising" on Mausbach's chest.

"(Bobby) would begin petty arguments that usually stemmed from his jealousy of Dr. Mausbach and his relationship with mutual friends," the other Chinese man wrote in his statement.

The statement was filed in Cass County District Court, where Bobby sought a restraining order to keep Mausbach away. The judge dismissed Bobby's petition for a restraining order against Mausbach, citing a lack of evidence.

The roommate said in his court statement, introduced on Mausbach's behalf, that he understood that Mausbach intended to file for a divorce against Bobby, and said he believed Bobby sought the restraining order "in order to undermine the process."

In a statement to The Forum, Benjamin Thomas, Mausbach's lawyer, contended the divorce and Bobby's jeopardized immigration status prompted him to make the allegations. Mausbach filed for a divorce against Bobby on March 4, about three weeks after the domestic disturbance, citing "irreconcilable differences."

"The parties are in the middle of a contested divorce commenced by Dr. Mausbach," Thomas said in the statement. "(Bobby) is a Chinese citizen whom Dr. Mausbach originally sponsored to come to the United States."

Mausbach has withdrawn his support for Bobby to receive permanent immigration benefits, Thomas said. Immigrants who marry U.S. citizens can't seek permanent residence until they've been married for three years. However, immigrants can avoid being deported in some situations by proving they are an abuse victim.

Bobby said that wasn't his motivation for submitting a statement to the medical board. He said he had important information he felt obligated to report.

In an interview, Thomas Mausbach said Bobby's assertions were false.

"He has nothing to lose," he said.

"The truth is going to come out," he added. "He's done and said some things that just couldn't have happened," but would not elaborate. "I'm sure in the end things will turn out all right."


'The past is the past'

The investigation by Fargo police into the sexual molestation allegations began when Blake Mausbach walked into the police station on Dec. 1, 2011. He told police his father had touched his genitals multiple times over many years, but he said the contact never went further than fondling, according to the police report.

Detectives noted Blake Mausbach was unable to provide a lot of specifics in repeated interviews and that his accounts of the abuse were "hard to follow" and his chronology was "all over the place."

The day after Blake Mausbach first reported the alleged molestations, he called police and said he wanted to "take back everything he said because he is too soon in his recovery process and is not ready to deal with this yet." An officer told him his report had been forwarded to detectives for a follow-up investigation, and he was interviewed again by police a few days later, according to police reports.

In the later interview, according to a police report, Blake Mausbach told detectives that he confronted his father, saying he had molested him and was told in response, "the past is the past."

During the investigation, Betty Mausbach, Blake's mother, told police her son also confronted her about the alleged sexual abuse, telling her "you don't know the hell I've been through," police reports say.

Betty Mausbach also told detectives she noticed, in about 1990, the year Blake told police the fondling incidents began, that her son would sleep with his dresser in front of the door, according to detectives' investigation reports. She couldn't remember if she'd asked for a reason, police reports say.

In a brief filed in their 2013 divorce case arguing about Thomas Mausbach's conduct in the marriage, Betty Mausbach's lawyer wrote that Mausbach was prepared to present evidence to support her belief that her husband had sexually abused their son.

During the 2011 police investigation, the doctor's wife told investigators Thomas Mausbach had never expressed to her a sexual interest in children and denied he'd molested their son when she confronted him, police reports say. She also told police Blake had what she described as "paranoia from time to time" and a drinking problem, according to detectives' reports.

In a recent interview with The Forum, Betty Mausbach said she was slow to believe her son's allegations because of his drinking problem. Later, as reflected in court documents in the couple's divorce case, her view changed.

As she told police in 2011, according to an investigation report, Betty Mausbach noted in a recent interview that Blake's account has never changed. "It was always the same," she said.

Still, the mother said her son decided not to pursue charges because of his problems, including the brain injury and alcohol abuse, which he worried would impair his credibility on the witness stand.

"He did back down because he figured they'd tear him down on the stand," the mother said.


Case closed

As police investigated, a person whose name was redacted in the report told detectives that in the mid-1990s he saw the internet history on a computer in the Mausbach home included a website called "breathless boys." The person said he visited the "breathless boys" website and saw what appeared to be boys under the age of 18 and men having sex, according to the police report.

Later, in the early 2000s, he again checked websites from a computer in the Mausbach home that had images of what he described as men and boys or "men and younger people" having sex, the police report said. The same person said that he later saw about eight to 10 images of men and boys on a laptop computer of Thomas Mausbach's, according to the police report.

After that interview, police obtained a warrant to search Thomas Mausbach's Fargo home. They took a laptop and desktop computer as well as several videotapes, which were inspected forensically by an agent for the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation, who reported finding "no items of contraband."

Blake Mausbach also told police that when he was a child he saw eyes staring at him from holes in a bathroom wall while he was taking a shower, police reports say. He said he recognized the eyes as his father's because of the eyeglasses he wore, according to the reports.

During the search of the Mausbach home, police found and photographed a hole in a wall that would have allowed someone to look into a bathroom, though the view had since been covered up by sheetrock and tile in the bathroom, police reports say.

Thomas Mausbach told police he never peered through the hole to spy on anyone, and said the hole was from a construction project, according to police reports.

Police reports also refer to two separate allegations when Blake was with friends and they claim to have found pills in food items Thomas Mausbach gave them.

A childhood friend of Blake's told police Thomas Mausbach once gave him an ice cream bar while at the Mausbach home. He told police he found "a very small blue pill" inside the ice cream bar, according to a police report.

Blake told police his father once offered him and a friend already opened candy bars when they were hanging out in the basement of the family's home. Blake told police one of them took a bite of the candy bar and found a white pill inside, which Blake claimed was Ambien, a sleeping pill, police reports said.

In May 2012, Fargo police closed the investigation. A detective noted in his report that Blake was no longer willing to pursue charges, his father denied the allegations and there was no physical evidence in the case showing sexual abuse.

Thomas Mausbach released to The Forum a May 2012 letter from a lawyer who represented him during the police investigation.

"Detective (Nick) Kjonaas indicated that with your earlier denial, they probably wouldn't have pursued this in any event," wrote the lawyer, Bruce Quick.

"Nonetheless, with the alleged victim withdrawing the accusation, and your denial, there is absolutely no way the matter can now be pursued," Quick's letter continued. "This case will also be filed away and not even sent to the prosecutor for a decision."


Glowing reviews

Thomas Mausbach received flattering evaluations at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine, where he was a clinical professor in pediatrics from 1999 to 2010, according to his personnel file.

Mausbach repeatedly received glowing reports from both students and colleagues.

"His teaching is rated from very good to excellent," Mausbach's 2008 clinical faculty evaluation reported. "He is well respected as a teacher by the students. He is involved in professional community activities through service in China, as well as cleft palate clinic. ... Very highly rated teacher by students. Provides a pleasant and stimulating student experience."

Thomas, Mausbach's lawyer, said his client has a spotless record and is held in high regard as a doctor.

"Dr. Mausbach has been a respected physician for more than 40 years," Thomas said in his statement. "He has never been disciplined, reprimanded or accused of misconduct relating to his career as a physician. His reputation as a physician speaks for itself."

Dr. Thomas Mausbach
Dr. Thomas Mausbach

Patrick Springer first joined The Forum in 1985. He covers a wide range of subjects including health care, energy and population trends. Email address: pspringer@forumcomm.com
Phone: 701-367-5294
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