April 23, 2014

Please Help David Guggenheim and His Family

David E. Guggenheim, the "Ocean Doctor" (Photo: Shari Sant Plummer)Please help David E. Guggenheim, the "Ocean Doctor," through the biggest challenge of his life. Falsely suspected in the April 2012 assault of his wife, Svetlana by Washington, DC's Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), David is facing significant legal costs, compounded by the fact that he and his wife are both self-employed; Svetlana remains hospitalized and has been unable to work at all, and David, who is caring for his wife daily during her hospitalization and working on his legal defense, has been only able to work a fraction of his normal hours and has been unable to fundraise for his conservation projects. 

Svetlana and David GuggenheimThis story is chilling and its implications reach far beyond an innocent person's legal defense. Representing himself, David appeared in a hearing in U.S. District Court after he filed complaint against MPD charging that MPD had inhumanely isolated Svetlana from her family -- including her daughter -- for nearly a month at the very time she needed her family the most, as she was waking up after major brain surgery. As David told Matt Lauer on his recent appearance on NBC's Today Show, “I’m speaking out because of the way MPD has handled this, without a court order, that has kept a family apart at their time of need. That should alarm people.

Please consider making a desperately-needed donation. The David Guggenheim Legal Defense Fund was established by five of David's closest childhood friends and 100 percent of your contribution will be used for costs related to David's legal defense, including fees for attorneys, paralegals, private investigators and other related costs.

Please Donate to the David Guggenheim Legal Defense Fund

100 percent of your contribution will be used for costs related to David's legal defense, including fees for attorneys, paralegals, private investigators and other related costs.

If you prefer to mail a check, please make payable to "David Guggenheim Legal Defense Fund" and mail to: P.O. Box 53090, Washington, DC 20009


Media Coverage

Washingtony Post Mystery over D.C. woman’s attack continues by Paul M. Dugan (June 6, 2012)
CBS News Lawyer: Scientist not sole focus in wife's beating (May 29, 2012)
Associated Press TV scientist denies involvement in wife's assault (May 24, 2012)
Situation Room Wolf Blitzer CNN

VIDEO: Woman's vicious assault still a mystery - Wolf Blitzer and Lisa Sylvester, the Situation Room, CNN (May 24, 2012)


Huffington Post David Guggenheim, Famed Marine Biologist, Kept Away From Wife For Nearly A Month After Mysterious Attack (May 23, 2012)
Good Morning America VIDEO: Case of D.C. Marine Biologist Accused in Wife's Brutal Attack Wrapped in Mystery (May 23, 2012)
The Today Show
VIDEO: ‘Ocean Doctor’ is kept from wife after mystery attack: Initially accused of attack by his injured wife, marine biologist fights for visitation rights (May 23, 2012)
Washingtony Post DC Woman's Apparent Attack Full of Mystery by Paul M. Dugan (May 20, 2012)
Washington Examiner Noted Scientist Embroiled in Police Mystery by Scott McCabe (May 15, 2012)


An Open Letter from David E. Guggenheim -- May 16, 2012

Family, Friends, Followers,

You have not heard much from me over the past month. For those of you wondering where I have been or why I have not responded to your voice mail or email, please accept my sincerest apologies. I want to take this opportunity to explain what has happened.

While I am in the habit of sharing occasional junk food binges and random misadventures of my own personal life on social media, I have tried to respect my family's privacy about more serious matters. Such has been the case over the past five weeks during what has been by far the most traumatic and trying episode of our lives.

Today our story has become public (Washington Examiner 5/16/2012: http://bit.ly/JjaGOA Page 4). Therefore, I want to take this opportunity to let you hear the facts directly from me. It's a deeply painful and complicated story. This is a brief account:

On April 5 or 6, my wife, Svetlana, was the victim of a horrific violent attack that left her near death with a fractured skull, brain trauma, and multiple injuries over her body. On April 7 I returned from a trip to New York/Princeton/Philadelphia to find her on the floor of the bedroom, incoherent. I stayed with her every day over the next couple of weeks at Washington Hospital Center (WHC) during which she underwent major brain surgery and remained on a respirator.

After hearing from WHC trauma staff that Svetlana's injuries appeared to be from an assault, not a fall, I contacted the DC Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and was blown off: "I'm sorry, there's nothing we can do, sir." I called again (the third call including my initial 911 call) and MPD finally took interest in the matter. I cooperated to the fullest and provided MPD with everything they requested. I provided them with a wealth of information documenting my out-of-town trip, including the names and contact information for the many people I was with (from whom I now have signed Affidavits.) What I didn't realize was that MPD would be blinded by their suspicion of me as the assailant and that they didn't take even minimal steps to verify my story in order to clear me as a suspect. Just yesterday, my brother, Alan, returned to the Philadelphia-area Walmart store that the two of us had visited during my visit -- a visit which occurred around the time of the assault and that I informed MPD about. He met with the head of security who showed him clear video of the two of us in the store. The question is, why was it my brother and not MPD making this inquiry?

On April 19, two MPD detectives met me at the hospital, including the lead detective, Antoine Weston of Third District "3D," and informed me that Svetlana could no longer have any visitors until they could get a statement from her. Any information about her status would have to come through MPD. Not even my stepdaughter, Anna, could visit or get information directly from her mother's caretakers. He told me that the hospital might even deny that she was there.

After more than four days of isolation, I pleaded with MPD to be allowed to visit my wife and that to do otherwise would jeopardize her care, which I had been involved in daily. I told MPD I was open to having an MPD officer present. I also requested a daily meeting with her nurses and doctors. MPD never responded to my request. Svetlana would be isolated from her daughter for nearly a month. I still have not seen her.

Without informing me, the hospital changed Svetlana's next of kin from me to Anna. The hospital contacted Anna and briefly gave Anna limited information about her mother's status because Anna's consent was needed to perform a tracheostomy and insertion of a feeding tube. But abruptly, on Friday, May 4, a representative of the hospital told Anna that, because of MPD restrictions, information regarding her mother’s status would no longer be given to her by telephone and that she would have to come to the hospital in person, even though Anna is a resident of Florida. Nor would the hospital confirm that Svetlana was still at WHC or, if so, what part of the hospital she was in. For more than one week Anna and I didn't know if Svetlana was alive or dead, or where in the world she was.

After nearly three weeks of Svetlana's isolation, I felt I had no choice but to file a complaint in U.S. District Court (Civil Complaint 1:12-cv-00728) against the MPD along with a motion for a temporary restraining order to prevent MPD from impeding visits and access to information by Anna and me. Unable to afford an attorney, I wrote the complaint and motion myself, made many mistakes (I've had only one law class in my life...Environmental Law), but somehow was able to get a hearing last Friday. I told the judge, "I am not an attorney. I am a desperate husband and father." I told the court we were there because the MPD had failed to demonstrate the legal justification, such as a court order, or even a written internal policy, guiding its actions to isolate Svetlana from her family for more than three weeks and significantly limiting information regarding her status.

I insisted that isolating Svetlana jeopardizes her recovery. Without a consistent, unimpeded dialogue, my stepdaughter and I are unable to fully assess Svetlana’s condition and we are unable to continue our consultation of outside medical experts. In addition, prohibiting family members from visiting for an extended period of time can adversely impact a patient’s recovery. Such familial support has been inhumanely prohibited by the MPD with the cooperation of WHC.

I cited a recent report from the Institute for Patient- and Family-Centered Care in Bethesda, Maryland. The report, entitled, “Changing Hospital Visiting Policies and Practices: Supporting Family Presence and Participation,” which was written by a working group of health care leaders, staff and patient/family advisors, states, “Research has demonstrated that the presence and participation of family members and friends – as partners in care – provides costs savings, enhances the patient and family experience of care, improves management of chronic and acute illnesses, enhances continuity of care, and prevents hospital readmissions.” The report also states, “The research is also clear that isolating patients at their most vulnerable times from the people who know them best places them at risk for medical error, emotional harm, inconsistencies in care, and costly unnecessary care.” Further, the report states, “Families and other ‘partners in care’ are much more keenly aware of any change in cognitive function than hospital staff and therefore are a valuable resource during hospitalization.” (This is an incredibly important, thoughtful and timely report and I highly recommend that you download a copy at: http://www.ipfcc.org/visiting.pdf)

I also explained that the actions of MPD and WHC prohibiting my stepdaughter and myself from visiting Svetlana is causing us significant emotional distress. Both of us have been afflicted with insomnia and I have had to seek medical attention for stress and insomnia from my family physician. As we would soon find out, the isolation was also causing Svetlana unbearable stress.

I was utterly shocked by the Defense's response. They entered into evidence a document from WHC, a handwritten note from a nurse (with an attachment signed by the head of the WHC Center for Ethics) stating, "The patient has been made non-published since 4/19/2012 because she had indicated her injuries were caused by her husband…"

I am convinced that the document produced by the MPD is a fabrication, perhaps the result of collusion by MPD and WHC to cover their butts. If it is not a fabrication, it is most certainly the result of incompetent and unethical conduct on the part of WHC. It is suspect for many reasons, including the fact that it is back-dated to a time (4/19/2012) when I was still visiting Svetlana and I know she was incapable of communicating at all. It also contains numerous other errors.

On Sunday, Anna flew in to DC from Florida and was given permission by MPD to visit her mother. This permission was "mysteriously" granted when Detective Weston called Anna the morning of the day after I filed the complaint. When Anna entered the room her mom reacted with incredible delight and enthusiasm. Svetlana wrote, "I was going crazy…worried sick about both of you.” (She cannot speak due to the tracheostomy.)

It immediately became clear to Anna that Svetlana had no idea why she had been isolated from us for nearly a month. Nor did she have any recollection of telling anyone that I harmed her. She very clearly indicated to Anna that I did NOT assault her.

Yesterday, Anna videotaped her mother signing a statement indicating that I did not assault her, that any records in her file stating that she said this are completely false, and insisting that my full visitation privileges be restored immediately. At 4pm yesterday Anna was told by her mother's doctors that they had just received a call from Detective Weston requesting that she leave the hospital immediately and indicating that no further visits be made without an MPD officer present.

Svetlana is improving steadily, but recovery from brain injury is slow and tedious. She may be blind in her left eye. She can think and communicate, which is wonderful news, but it remains very unclear just what sort of recovery can ultimately be expected.

The horror of this violent crime is traumatic enough. The incompetence, arrogance and unethical behavior of MPD and WHC is beyond belief. I am doing everything in my power to ensure that every wrong committed against my family sees the light of day and that, in the end, justice prevails to prevent such a violation of human rights by authorities and hospitals from happening to any other families at arguably their weakest moments. I am now assembling a legal team and will keep you informed.

Meanwhile, thank you for your support and understanding.


Please Donate to the David Guggenheim Legal Defense Fund

100 percent of your contribution will be used for costs related to David's legal defense, including fees for attorneys, paralegals, private investigators and other related costs.

If you prefer to mail a check, please make payable to "David Guggenheim Legal Defense Fund" and mail to: P.O. Box 53090, Washington, DC 20009