Monday, April 15, 2024

Wilmington Police Department says oral surgeon investigation took time, started with 2017 complaints

A spokesperson for the WPD noted that sexual assault investigations can take a long time, but stated that authorities began their investigation with the first received complaint.

Dr. Michael Lee Hasson, first arrested in January of 2019, has seen numerous additional charges. (Port City Daily photo / New Hanover County Sheriff's Office)
Dr. Michael Lee Hasson, first arrested in January of 2019, has seen numerous additional charges. (Port City Daily photo / New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office)

WILMINGTON — After the state’s dental board released documents revealing that complaints against Wilmington oral surgeon Dr. Michael Lee Hasson date back to 2017, some readers asked why police didn’t make an arrest earlier.

As reported by WECT, the North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners released documentation that a complaint was filed against Hasson in October of 2017. It wasn’t until over a year later, on Jan. 31, that Hasson was arrested.

The Wilmington Police Department (WPD) confirmed that it received a complaint against Hasson in late 2017. According to WPD spokesperson Linda Thompson, it was the earliest complaint authorities received, and was the beginning of the investigation into Hasson – an investigation that still continues, generating a dozen new charges today.

Thompson stated that sexual assault investigations take time, and there are many things that can delay the process. One general example, Thompson said, was the processing of rape kits, a process that can take over a year. Thompson stressed that was a general example, not the specific reason for the length of the Hasson investigation.

Thompson also noted the importance of having adequate evidence before making an arrest, as prosecuting without sufficient evidence could allow a perpetrator to go free, leaving the state without the ability to retry them.

The New Hanover County District Attorney’s office has “been with” the case since the 2017 complaint, Thompson said, providing consultation on the investigation. District Attorney Ben David and his office did not respond to a request for comment on the timeline of the investigation leading from the October 2017 complaint to the Jan. 2019 arrest.

Hasson is currently being held in the New Hanover County Detention Facility on a $1.1 million bond; he is facing nearly 30 charges, including several counts of felony indecent liberties with a child, over a dozen counts of sexual battery, one count of statutory rape, and numerous felony second-degree forcible sex offenses.

Under North Carolina law, only vaginal penetration is grounds for a rape charge, but most “second-degree forcible sex offenses” in would be considered rape under the U.S. Department of Justice’s 2012 definition, which was updated for the first time since 1927. That definition is, “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”

According to warrants, 22 victims between the ages of 12 and 70 have made allegations against Hasson for abusing patients under anesthesia. The alleged incidents took place between 2009 and 2018.

Send comments and tips to Benjamin Schachtman at, @pcdben on Twitter, and (910) 538-2001.

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