GEORGETOWN, Del. (DelawareOnline.com
) -- Capping a horrific 18 months that traumatized an entire county and state, once-respected pediatrician Earl B. Bradley was found guilty Thursday of raping or assaulting more than 85 young children under his care.
Superior Court Judge William C. Carpenter Jr. found Bradley guilty on all 24 counts of first-degree rape, second-degree assault and sexual exploitation of a child. The guilty finding was widely anticipated.
The former Lewes pediatrician will receive life in prison, a mandatory sentence, when Carpenter brings him back into court on Aug. 26.
"I'm looking for life," said a man outside court who said his young niece was one of Bradley's victims. "Life in prison hurts more. It gives you more time to feel the pain that the families have."
The case will then turn to the appeal phase, with the defense expected to seek to throw out the 13 hours of videos Bradley made of his assaults, citing errors in the police search, and force a new trial.
The courtroom was silent as Carpenter read his six-page written verdict, with a few tears coming from family members of victims. The verdict addressed the case only in legal, clinical language, not addressing Bradley's conduct or betrayal of trust.
"In sum, the court finds the defendant guilty of all 24 counts," Carpenter said.
"This is just the prelude to the next part," said a victim's mother. "Even though there is relief that he's guilty, it's still not settled until we know what's going to happen in the appeals process."
Bradley, wearing a gray prison jumpsuit and sporting his familiar heavy beard and shaggy hair, showed no emotion as he read along while sitting at the defense table beside public defender Dean Johnson. He was then handcuffed and taken away by corrections officers.
Outside court, Johnson said about his client: "He's pretty quiet today. Nothing remarkable."
Both sides declined comment on the case. A gag order imposed by Carpenter will remain in place until after sentencing.
Bradley earlier waived his right to a jury trial. Much of the evidence, including videos the doctor took of himself sexually assaulting children, were accepted by both sides without argument. Carpenter rendered the verdict based on his own assessment of the evidence during the daylong trial. Experts had said a guilty verdict was a virtual certainty given the strength of the evidence Bradley's defense team acknowledged.
Security on Thursday was tighter than at Bradley's trial. Court officers used a mirror to check underneath the court pews before allowing people into the courtroom, and more than 20 corrections officers, police officers and court bailiffs stood watch as Carpenter took the bench. They lined the aisle and stood between Bradley and the gallery, filled with about 60 people, plus members of the media.
Relatives and family members of victims left from a rear entrance, avoiding the media.
Jesus Soto, 24, of Selbyville, who is pursuing a criminal justice degree from the University of Delaware, was in attendance to get a firsthand look at the court process.
"It was expected," Soto said. "It was going to be guilty."
Legal observers said under state law, Carpenter must sentence Bradley to life in prison given the multiple rape convictions.
"It is mandatory life if there are three or more separate victims," said longtime defense attorney Edmund "Dan" Lyons Jr., who was not affiliated with the case. "But he would get it anyway."
Bradley's defense team contends the search warrant for Bradley's BayBees Pediatrics near Lewes did not permit police to raid buildings where the videos were discovered. At the trial, Johnson reiterated his client's objection to the search.
A state police detective who viewed the videos testified at trial that Bradley used mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on a few girls who were "ashen gray" from choking and suffocation after he forced them to perform oral sex on him.
They also show children in diapers screaming as they attempt in vain to escape from their doctor before he rapes them in an outbuilding where he took children for candy and toys. In one case, at his home, the video shows Bradley using nitrous oxide to keep a sleeping 7-year-old girl sedated during his attack, police testified.
In all, Bradley assaulted more than 102 girls and at least one boy, Bradley's indictment said, but prosecutors reduced the number of victims to 86 for the trial. Detectives and prosecutors were able to identify 70 of the victims.
Bradley, 58, has been held in solitary confinement at Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna since his arrest in December 2009.