DOYLESTOWN, Pa. - A male dermatology nurse who secretly videotaped female patients after they disrobed was sentenced Tuesday in Bucks County Common Pleas Court to serve two to four years in state prison, according to the Bucks County District Attorney’s Office.
James Close, 45, said a sex addiction drove him to conceal his iPhone and record patients at Penn Medicine Dermatology in Lower Makefield Township earlier this year.
“I don’t know what I was thinking,” said Close, whose eight victims ranged from 17 to 70 years of age. “I wish I would have sought help before I brought so many people such pain.”
It was his youngest victim who blew the whistle on Close, a licensed practical nurse who had worked for Penn Medicine facilities for five years.
After stepping unclothed into a phototherapy booth for treatment of a skin disorder in February, the teenager noticed a silver iPhone at her feet.
The girl saw that the phone had been recording video of her for 25 seconds.
She confronted Close and turned the phone over to a nursing manager at the facility, after which police were contacted.
Investigators quickly obtained a search warrant for Close’s iPhone 6, and found 19 stored videos depicting eight female patients in various stages of undress.
“This young woman did an incredibly brave thing by reporting the incident”, Assistant District Attorney Megan K. Stricker told Judge Wallace H. Bateman Jr.
“Her strength and her resolve are what led us to find the other women who are here today.”
Close pleaded guilty in August to multiple felony counts of filming a nude child without her consent and criminal use of a communications facility, as well as dozens of misdemeanor charges of endangering the welfare of children and invasion of privacy.
Several victims submitted or read statements in court, all describing feelings of betrayal, violation, and humiliation.
Some have sought counseling for psychological issues, including fears of being videotaped again in places such as public restrooms, hotel rooms, changing rooms, and doctor’s offices.
One woman described how she and Close discussed their families, holidays, and favorite foods while she stood naked behind a curtain for treatments.
“I thought I was getting medical treatment when, in fact, I was becoming part of a porn collection,” she wrote.
“He was not only my friend, but he was also a medical professional. Medical professionals are supposed to protect my privacy. I was being treated by the best hospital in Philadelphia, maybe even the country. I went to get better. I left a victim of a modern-day peeping Tom.”
Although Close said he deleted each video after viewing it, clips spanning several weeks were found on his phone. One victim angrily questioned how many others he might have videotaped in the past.
“Who knows how long he did this for?” she said. “How many women? How many young children?”
Psychologist Dean Dickson, who evaluated Close in prison, said the defendant has “a long-term sexual addiction that led to this reprehensible behavior.”
He said that Close had become so desensitized to constant pornography that the novelty and danger of viewing naked patients aroused him “like a moth to the flame.”
“This is a broken man who victimized people,” Dickson testified. “His problem is that he wasn’t in treatment earlier.”
Close’s sister, Peggy Hanes, said her brother had been affected by parents who drank heavily, a verbally abusive mother who once made him sit for hours on their porch with an untreated broken arm, and a twin brother who committed suicide in his early 20s.
She and other family members, including Close’s former wife, testified that they were shocked to learn of his crimes and his sexual addiction, saying they viewed him as a caring man and a nurturing father to his two children.
Close, saying he “regrets terribly” his crimes, described himself as two people: one who was a decent, professional person, and “one who did this horrible thing. And I apologize, because they’re both me. There were times when I couldn’t help myself.”
Stricker argued that Close betrayed his profession, violated the trust of multiple patients, and inflicted harm on them indiscriminately and without regret.
“He was happy about it,” Stricker said, “until he got caught.”
Defense attorney Ellis Klein argued for leniency, saying that Close’s crimes should be viewed in light of his sexual addiction.
“It makes you do things that [people would] not normally do. It makes you take risks,” Klein said. “He’s no different from a heroin addict.”
Bateman said a state prison sentence was necessary, given Close’s violation of a position of trust, the fact that he had multiple victims, and the extent to which he had altered their lives.
“Whatever happens to you … you’re going to get better” through counseling and sex-offender treatment, Bateman told Close.
To ensure that Close continues to be monitored and treated after being released, Bateman tacked a consecutive 20 years of probation onto his prison sentence.
“Unfortunately for your victims, nothing but time is going to help them get better,” the judge said. “… I don’t think we will ever understand the full extent of the damage you have done to these people.”
The case was investigated by the Lower Makefield Township Police Department.
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