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Dentist Acquitted of One Fondling; Faces Trial for Another

They say, "Where there's smoke, there's fire." Prior to today's ruling, it looked like Dr. Ernest Panos, 81, was going to be on the hook for two sexual abuse charges against two different girls. At his age, a conviction on either charge would almost certainly mean death behind bars. Today, he was acquitted of the first charge, reports the Chicago Tribune.

For his defense team, that's one down and one to go. Dr. Panos' charges got extra attention in the media due to the timing of the charges. He was arrested in August of 2010 for charges related to today's case. He was released shortly thereafter when prosecutors declined to press charges. However, he was picked up again a few months later when the charges were re-filed.

His attorney told CBS Chicago that it was all due to an extortion attempt. When Dr. Panos refused to pay up to a relative of the victim, the charges suddenly reappeared.

The case then got even more unusual, reports CBS. When Dr. Panos was released on bond, he was allowed to continue to practice, as long as a female chaperone was present at all times. He was arrested shortly thereafter for fondling a different teenage girl in his office.

His attorney responded to the second charges with big words like "railroading," "persecution," and "abuse of power." Meanwhile, in the court of public opinion, he was guilty of both charges. However, both Dr. Ernest Panos and the nurse chaperone maintain that he was never left alone with the alleged victim.

For the record, if he is convicted of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, he faces a Class 2 felony, which carries a sentence of up to seven years in prison.

After today's proceeding, Dr. Panos is at least legally innocent and presumed innocent on the other. But, in the Court of Public Opinion, will anyone ever think that he's actually innocent?

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