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Press Release

Former Chief Of Cardiology At Palo Alto Va Hospital Sentenced To Prison For Sexual Battery Of Subordinate Doctor

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of California

SAN JOSE – Cardiologist John Giacomini was sentenced today to eight months in prison in connection with his conviction for felony abusive sexual contact, announced United States Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds; Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General (VA OIG) Special Agent in Charge Jason Root; and Chief of Police of the Veterans Affairs Police Service Martin Sizemore.  The sentence was handed down by the Honorable Beth L. Freeman, United States District Judge. 

Giacomini, 73, of Atherton, pleaded guilty to the charge on March 2, 2022.  Giacomini practiced medicine and cardiology for over 30 years and from 1985 until 2018 he was the Chief of the Cardiology Section at the VA Hospital in Palo Alto, Calif.  According to his plea agreement, Giacomini admitted that beginning in the fall of 2017, he repeatedly subjected a subordinate doctor to unwanted and unwelcome sexual contact, to include hugging, kissing, and intimate touching while on VA premises.  On November 10, 2017, the victim told Giacomini she was not interested in a romantic or sexual relationship with him.  She also forcibly resisted his repeated attempts to kiss her on the mouth.  Nevertheless, Giacomini continued to subject his subordinate to unwanted sexual advances and touching, culminating on December 20, 2017, when Giacomini aggressively groped her breasts, buttocks, and vagina during a meeting in her office.  The victim later resigned from her position at the VA, citing Giacomini’s behavior as her principal reason for leaving.

At today’s sentencing, the victim spoke about the harm she suffered from Giacomini’s sexual harassment and abuse. “I felt overwhelming disappointment that my chief and former mentor who I trusted would abuse his position like that. During that period at the VA, I felt a myriad of emotions, from fear to helplessness to disgust to anger and finally sadness.” She also testified regarding her desire to prevent other female doctors from suffering her fate. “The primary reason I reported these events was to help prevent this from happening to anyone else again, especially women fellows in the field of cardiology.” 

During the sentencing hearing, Judge Freeman cited the egregiousness of Giacomini’s conduct, the victim’s courage in coming forward, and the pervasiveness of workplace sexual assault as compelling factors justifying imposition of a prison sentence as opposed to a lesser sentence of probation or home detention.

 "For those willing and able to share their stories of abuse, the Office of the U.S. Attorney is here to listen," said U.S. Attorney Hinds. "And where the law and evidence permit, we will act. Dedicated public servants are the government's most precious resource. It is our obligation, and our honor, to protect them from harassment and abuse in their federal workplaces and to seek justice on their behalf."

A federal grand jury indicted Giacomini on March 12, 2020, charging him with one count of abusive sexual contact, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2244(b).  Three days before his trial was set to begin, Giacomini pleaded guilty to the felony charge.    

In addition to the prison term, Judge Freeman also ordered Giacomini to serve one year of supervised release, pay a fine of $15,000, and pay mandatory special assessment fees.  

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Marissa Harris and Jeffrey Nedrow are prosecuting the case with the assistance of Nina Burney-Williams, Sahib Kaur, and Susan Kreider.  The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of the Inspector General and the Veterans Affairs Police Service. 

Updated July 13, 2022