Transcript

Predator on the Reservation

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CURT MULLER, Special Agent, Department of Health and Human Services:

[subtitles] This is special Agent Curt Muller, inspector with the United States Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General. I’m here meeting with Dr. Stanley Patrick Weber in his home on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation’s Indian Health Service hospital campus.

NARRATOR:

Dr. Stanley Patrick Weber was a pediatrician working for the Indian Health Service.

CURT MULLER:

[subtitles] We’ve got some instances what we need to talk about. OK? We’re not here to judge anybody. We’re here to try to get down to the facts of what had happened and why it happened.

NARRATOR:

His patients were Native American children.

CURT MULLER:

[subtitles] Would there be any reason that your nurses were emphatic that you wanted to see boys instead of girls?

STANLEY PATRICK WEBER:

[subtitle] I don’t know.

CURT MULLER:

[subtitle] There was a certain type – skinny, muscular.

STANLEY PATRICK WEBER:

[subtitle] Mm hmm.

CURT MULLER:

I mean I’m…

FRED BENNETT, Agent:

[subtitle] Acne issues.

CURT MULLER:

Yeah.

[subtitles] I mean I’m not making this up, doc. I’m talking to all the nurses. I know you wanted to keep things quiet but things were never quiet.

NARRATOR:

Allegations followed Dr. Weber from reservation to reservation.

STANLEY PATRICK WEBER:

[subtitles] Let’s be clear about this, OK? I have not had sex with my patients. I don’t. That’s just a, a principle I have.

CURT MULLER:

[subtitle] Doc, people have been talking for 20 years here.

FRED BENNETT:

[subtitles] It seems that wherever you go, there’s the allegations that you’re, you’re with young boys.

NARRATOR:

Wall Street Journal reporters Christopher Weaver and Dan Frosch have been on the trail of Dr. Stanley Patrick Weber and the government agency he worked for – the Indian Health Service.

CHRISTOPHER WEAVER, The Wall Street Journal:

Starting about two years ago, we got interested in a federal agency called the Indian Health Service.

Their hospitals have had an ugly track record in the last few years. They were missing diagnoses. Patients were dying for no reason. And we found that the agency had failed for many years to take in hand a series of structural problems that had basically rendered these hospitals incapable of meeting their regulatory requirements.

We found a bunch of doctors with troubled track records before they joined the IHS or once they got there. In some cases, people who had, who had been convicted of crimes prior to their service with the IHS.

JENNIFER FORSYTH, Deputy Investigations Chief, The Wall Street Journal:

And the IHS hired them anyway?

CHRISTOPHER WEAVER:

And the IHS hired them anyway.

DAN FROSCH, The Wall Street Journal:

We began looking into troubled doctors that had got in trouble during the course of their careers at IHS. And one of those doctors was a guy by the name of Stanley Patrick Weber.

CHRISTOPHER WEAVER:

Upon finishing the residency, he immediately joined the Indian Health Service. He was stationed from ’86 to ’89 at a hospital in Oklahoma – Ada, Oklahoma – that the IHS ran at that time. He was a pediatrician there.

JENNIFER FORSYTH:

And have we tried to reach him?

CHRISTOPHER WEAVER:

Yes.

JENNIFER FORSYTH:

And?

CHRISTOPHER WEAVER:

And he hasn’t responded.

DAN FROSCH:

This doctor being accused of sexual assault by patients and we thought that warranted a broader look, both at Dr. Weber, but also at sort of widespread practice of hiring doctors who, who would get into trouble.

CHRISTOPHER WEAVER:

We thought we gotta find out: Did the IHS know? Did anybody have any inkling that there might be an issue with this doctor?

NARRATOR:

In 1992, Dr. Weber arrived in the little town of Browning, Montana, part of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.

DAN FROSCH:

Blackfeet Reservation is about 2,300 square miles. It butts up against Canada. This stunningly beautiful place. Like a lot of Indian reservations, there is high poverty rates, high rates of alcoholism, diabetes, domestic abuse, et cetera. And so this is really one of the most far-flung places that you could go if you were a doctor.

NARRATOR:

The reservation’s only hospital was run by the IHS, which struggled to find doctors. Mary Ellen LaFromboise was the hospital’s CEO at the time.

MARY ELLEN LaFROMBOISE, Former CEO, Browning IHS hospital:

We had been without a pediatrician for a while. So here comes Dr. Weber. And all I could think of is: He looks comfortable, huh? He looked young, and just seemed like he was, would be a good fit for us.

NARRATOR:

One of the first things Dr. Weber did was help expand the hospital’s youth outreach programs.

MARY ELLEN LaFROMBOISE:

And they were talking about: We want to do some things in the school. You know, we have some programs that would blend really well with middle school. I just thought: Wow, here’s something that the hospital can offer the community. We’ll put Dr. Weber out there in the community.

NARRATOR:

Almost from the start, concerns began to emerge. Tim Davis is the chairman of the Blackfeet Tribe.

TIM DAVIS, Chairman, Blackfeet Tribe:

Running Weasel is my Indian name.

NARRATOR:

But in 1992, he worked in the hospital’s facilities department.

TIM DAVIS:

That green house, 105 is it? That’s the one Weber was in.

NARRATOR:

Part of his job was to inspect government-owned houses, including the one where Dr. Weber lived alone.

TIM DAVIS:

So what we did with each annual walk-through, we’d come through each house and I’d do the inspection of the roof, the floors, the walls, the windows, the doors, and then go through the basement, check out for any leaks.

When I went downstairs is when I was kind of like floored because of what I saw there is to me a signal of something that wasn’t right. The gentleman had a lot of food items, candy, pop, cookies, and then toys, games, videos, games that boys would play with. I mean it wasn’t just a, a small… It was stacks of stuff. I mean they were stacked. I mean I’m a dad, I got boys, I got eight boys, and I mean I buy my kids stuff but it’s not stacked up in the basement like, like that was. You know, that to me signaled there’s something wrong with this guy.

NARRATOR:

Davis says he shared his concerns with Mary Ellen LaFromboise, who at the time didn’t see it as cause for alarm.

Law enforcement interview excerpts

CURT MULLER:

[subtitle] Have you ever had any boys spend the night with you?

STANLEY PATRICK WEBER:

[subtitles] Well, when I was in Browning some kids would come by and they didn’t have a place to stay.

CURT MULLER:

[subtitle] How old were the kids?

STANLEY PATRICK WEBER:

[subtitles] I, I can’t remember at the time.

CURT MULLER:

[subtitle] You think they were 18 or 10. Or I mean…

STANLEY PATRICK WEBER:

[subtitles] Most of them were probably, you know, yeah, of age. I don’t know. Some of them might have been minors.

MARY ELLEN LaFROMBOISE, Former CEO, Browning IHS hospital:

The comments that were coming from maintenance about how there was a lot of traffic of young people in and out of Dr. Weber’s quarters. And I think somebody had asked him about it – why there were so many young people. Oh, they, we just like to get together, you know, to have pizza or pop. You know, things that kids like to do.

He seemed to be genuinely interested in our young people. He came with the idea of having a, a teen clinic area, you know, by having evening clinics, being more user-friendly to the community.

NARRATOR:

Others at the hospital were suspicious of Dr. Weber’s intentions. Psychologist Dan Foster and his wife Becky, a mental health specialist, knew some of Dr. Weber’s patients. They became increasingly uncomfortable with his after-hours clinic.

REBECCA FOSTER, Former IHS therapist:

Normally, if you bring your child to a pediatrician, a parent is with them. Or if a social worker brings a child to a pediatrician, the social worker is with them. The adult is with them. But these boys were going in there alone.

DAN FOSTER, Former IHS psychologist:

It was prepubescent, adolescent males, most of them teenagers, 12 to 15 years old. All of them vulnerable, high-risk, many of whom we already had suspicions that they’d been sexually molested or, or abused. And so that, that was a red flag. And then later, one of our colleagues came and told me he had real concerns regarding this doctor’s bringing a couch into his, his office and that he was keeping young males in there after hours when most of the staff had gone home.

NARRATOR:

While Dr. Weber was on the Blackfeet Reservation, no child is known to have come forward with a specific allegation of abuse. But Becky Foster remembered one boy who she’d later had concerns about – Joe Four Horns. He’s now in prison for bank robbery, but spoke to reporter Dan Frosch by phone.

DAN FROSCH:

[subtitle] Describe to me the first time you met Dr. Weber.

JOE FOUR HORNS:

[subtitles] I was skating and I collided with another kid and I fell and I broke my tailbone. So they brought me to the hospital and that’s where I met him at. He came and did a checkup on me like about a week later when I was at the nurturing center.

DAN FROSCH:

[subtitle] Did he do anything that day that was inappropriate in your mind?

JOE FOUR HORNS:

[subtitles] Just the way he was talking to me, but had his hand was on, like, on my leg while he was talking to me. And, and he just left it there and I kinda… That was, it made me uncomfortable. Why you just leave your hand on me, on my leg while you’re talking to me?

DAN FROSCH:

[subtitle] And Joe, tell me how old you were at this time.

JOE FOUR HORNS:

[subtitle] I was 11.

NARRATOR:

Joe says he never told anyone at the time what was happening during his visits with Dr. Weber. But on the reservation, the rumors and suspicions were growing.

DAN FOSTER:

He took the kids to Great Falls shopping. He took them to basketball tournaments when our kids would qualify. To us, that was getting the community used to seeing him with these kids and the implication of parental permission.

BECKY FOSTER:

This is grooming behavior. So you take kids who are high-risk, who are from difficult family circumstances, and who are poor. And you offer them new clothes and you offer them food and you offer them, you know, a home where the lights are on all the time. A child will gravitate toward that.

NARRATOR:

Dan Foster says he decided to confront Dr. Weber.

DAN FOSTER:

I had these concerns and I wanted him to know that I was bringing these concerns forward. My hope was that if he were doing something, he would stop. And if he weren’t, he would be warned and would modify his behavior accordingly. But, but he did not.

DAN FROSCH, The Wall Street Journal:

How did he respond to you?

DAN FOSTER:

He was polite, he assured me that he would not harm a child. He was respectful. And then I just didn’t see him after that.

Law enforcement interview excerpts

CURT MULLER, Special Agent, Department of Health and Human Services:

[subtitle] Did you ever have any sexual contact with anybody in Blackfeet?

STANLEY PATRICK WEBER:

[subtitle] No.

CURT MULLER:

[subtitle] Anybody, adult or juveniles?

STANLEY PATRICK WEBER:

[subtitle] Not even adult.

CURT MULLER:

[subtitle] Not even adult. OK.

STANLEY PATRICK WEBER:

No.

CURT MULLER:

[subtitle] Did you know some folks there by the last name of Four Horns?

STANLEY PATRICK WEBER:

[subtitles] Four Horns? Um, I don’t remember any Four Horns.

JOE FOUR HORNS:

[subtitles] I went to the hospital to get my eyes checked to see if I could get some glasses. And he was just saying stuff, like, trying to touch me and told me that if I feel uncomfortable with what he was doing to let him know and he would stop. And I told him that I did, like I, yeah, I feel uncomfortable. Like, I don't know what this is for. Like, why are you touching me?

DAN FROSCH:

[subtitle] Where was he touching you?

JOE FOUR HORNS:

[subtitles] Everywhere. Like, rubbing my leg and my arm and my chest and stuff like that.

DAN FROSCH:

[subtitle] Was he touching you on your genitals as well?

JOE FOUR HORNS:

[subtitles] He got to that but not right then, not at that time.

NARRATOR:

Finally, after years of suspicion and rumor, there was an incident that couldn’t be ignored involving a boy who’d been sleeping at the doctor’s house.

MARY ELLEN LaFROMBOISE, Former CEO, Browning IHS hospital:

There was an incident reported to me where a family member to a kid, you know, went over and wanted to fight him and ended up smashing him in, smashing him in the face, breaking his glasses. Kind of black eye.

I just thought, you know, he’s just going to be, he’s going to be a problem. And then, you know, get with the other staff and they were like: Yeah, you know, something’s going on.

NARRATOR:

LaFromboise reached out to the region’s top IHS official, who summoned the hospital’s acting clinical director, Randy Rottenbiller, to his office in Billings.

RANDY ROTTENBILLER, M.D., Former IHS acting clinical director:

He said, you know, I'm concerned that you have a pedophile on your staff and, and you need to get rid of him. And so I just said, OK, I've got to deal with this task.

The first thing I did when I got back to Browning was called him and asked him to meet me in my office. And I said, “Well, I've been told that you need to leave.” And he said that he had had some threats made against him and he was worried about his life and he was getting ready to leave Browning anyway. And I think he packed up and left the next day.

I guess the better response would be launch an investigation. And, and yet the IHS response is typically to sweep it under the rug or, you know, or pass it on to some other place.

NARRATOR:

The IHS would transfer Dr. Weber to its hospital on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

CHRISTOPHER WEAVER, The Wall Street Journal:

Yeah, the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is notoriously one of the poorest places in the United States. Their public health situation is dire. Life expectancy is among the very lowest in the country.

Law enforcement interview excerpts

CURT MULLER:

[subtitle] Why’d you leave Blackfeet?

STANLEY PATRICK WEBER:

[subtitle] Pardon?

CURT MULLER:

[subtitle] Why did you leave Blackfeet and come here?

STANLEY PATRICK WEBER:

[subtitles] Well, you know, I have family in this area. And I’ve always wanted to come. I always thought my place was to be Pine Ridge. I don’t know why. I just felt that this was the place for me to come.

NARRATOR:

But within months, a parent was already complaining that Dr. Weber had inappropriately examined a child. The IHS took him off clinical duties as federal authorities looked into it. They didn’t substantiate the complaint and Dr. Weber went back to work. But as in Montana, Weber’s interactions with boys continued to raise suspicions.

Kelly Brewer was a nurse who lived across the street from him.

KELLY BREWER, R.N., Former IHS nurse:

The tan house straight ahead, that was Dr. Weber’s house And then back here was where Dr. Weber’s garden used to be. Like all this area here where it’s kinda mulched, that was all garden. He hired kids to work in it all the time and they were always young Native American boys, 10-ish to 12-ish in age.

NARRATOR:

The kids coming and going would earn a nickname around the reservation.

Law enforcement interview excerpts

CURT MULLER:

[subtitles] They called it the Weber boys. Have you ever heard that term?

STANLEY PATRICK WEBER:

[subtitle] No, never heard that.

CURT MULLER:

[subtitles] Let me introduce you to it today ’cause that’s what was going on. People that lived in the community were seeing boys come and go, in and out, in and out of your house.

STANLEY PATRICK WEBER:

[subtitles] Maybe in the garage cause that’s where the tools are, but rarely would people come into my house.

CURT MULLER:

[subtitle] Which boys do you think did come in your house? Do you remember?

STANLEY PATRICK WEBER:

[subtitles] The only ones that ever did needed to use the bathroom and that was infrequent. But nobody’s ever stayed here overnight, ever. Sometimes they’d come in to use the phone, but that’s about it.

NARRATOR:

One of the so-called Weber boys was named Paul. Like Joe Four Horns in Montana, he is now in prison serving time for assault.

PAUL:

[subtitles] I had nothing and nobody. My stepmom talked my dad into turning his back on me. And then my mom threw me out. You do what you have to in order to get by. You know what I mean?

CHRISTOPHER WEAVER:

[subtitles] I do. And we’re talking, you’re like 13, 14 years old at this time?

PAUL:

[subtitle] Yeah. I was about 13.

CHRISTOPHER WEAVER:

Thirteen.

PAUL:

[subtitles] Little guy, man. Now I’m just, I’m ashamed of the whole situation. You know?

NARRATOR:

Paul says that in exchange for sexual favors, Weber would give him money or prescription drugs. Like the other boys, he kept his encounters a secret, year after year.

PAUL:

[subtitles] Here this guy was offering me money so I could find a place to sleep. All I had to do was a few f----- up favors. And at the time, it just made me feel super f----- up.

NARRATOR:

One night, he says, he pushed back.

PAUL:

[subtitles] That night, I did some pills and was drinking Everclear with it, man. I remember talking to Weber and then I remember him telling me to come pick some money up but was already drunk. And I remember blanking out.

When I came to, I think he was pressing up on me and that f------ fool was like trying to press me against that table. Man, that whole s--- with Weber was just like, he was a f------ predator. I remember telling him to back up. He was like, “Oh, you just want money. Is that all you come up here for?” On the table there was a wallet sitting there so I snatched it and I shoved him.

I remember running and seeing those cop lights. And I ran inside, flew into that laundry room and tried to barricade myself in there, man.

NARRATOR:

Tribal police officer Dan Hudspeth was called to the scene.

DAN HUDSPETH, Former police officer, Oglala Sioux Tribe:

Call came in. There was an assault. We chased the suspect down, located him not too far from the IHS housing. We took him into custody and then on to juvenile detention.

NARRATOR:

As Hudspeth took Paul to juvenile detention, he asked him what was going on.

PAUL:

[subtitles] Man, that was like the first time in a long time that somebody had actually asked me: “Are you all right? What happened?” Like, actually showing some sympathy, you know? And then I was thinking about it and I did. I did talk to him about, like, that whole situation.

NARRATOR:

The authorities now had a firsthand allegation of ongoing sexual abuse by Weber. But on the reservation, the tribal authorities don’t have jurisdiction over non-Indians. So all Officer Hudspeth could do was pass along Paul’s allegations to federal investigators.

DAN HUDSPETH:

We forwarded it on to the Bureau of Indian Affairs criminal investigations, but I’m not quite sure how they ran with it. All I do know is, personally, I took, I made sure my, my kids weren’t seen anymore by that pediatrician.

NARRATOR:

The Bureau of Indian Affairs declined to comment and Paul says no one from the federal government followed up with him. He kept quiet about what had happened after that. At the IHS hospital, one of Weber’s fellow pediatricians was developing his own concerns.

MARK BUTTERBRODT, M.D., Former IHS physician:

I’d hear him riffing through my charts, cherry-picking the, the, the cute teenage boys. So at that point, I started having some suspicions about him. He didn't like seeing babies, didn't like seeing toddlers, didn't like seeing girls, didn't like seeing teenage girls. So, so just professionally, I just kept butting heads with this guy. But I couldn't get anybody on the medical staff to listen me.

PAUL:

[subtitles] There was times where I’d be at the hospital. Right? And then, like, I’ll, I’ll go inside of Weber’s little examining room and like certain situations would happen. You know what I mean? I’ll come out and, like, nurses and other doctors, they’d just be like, staring at me. They knew exactly what was up.

When somebody looks at you a certain way, you know that they know something. Something inside is like, man, I hope they don’t think this, I hope they don’t think that, but you know that they do. You know, and at the same time you’re like, man, somebody help. You know what I’m saying? Somebody notice me, man. Somebody help me, man. They all just looked the other way, though, you know?

NARRATOR:

In November 2006, Paul did something that made it harder to look the other way. He wouldn’t discuss the details over the prison phone line, but he had one of his friends on the reservation recount what happened.

Henry Red Cloud says he, Paul, and another friend were out drinking and looking for trouble, and then ran out of money.

HENRY RED CLOUD:

All of a sudden, you know, Paul’s like, you know, he was like, let's just go over to that f------ doctor's house, man. I can't remember if he was f------ calling him a child molester or something like that. I can't remember, but I think I heard something like that. Paul had it out for Weber. Maybe it was just because of their little dealings. And I thought it was f----- up, too, ’cause he was my doctor and s---. I knew of several people that used to go get money from him.

So we went up there. We parked. As soon as he opened the door, I just kicked the door. He staggered back and he dropped and then I kicked him a few times, hit him a few times, and then threw him into the kitchen area. And then he was mumbling around and he started walking towards the back into that bathroom and Dr. Weber was sitting there looking at himself in the mirror. His eyes were f----- up, bloody mouth, bloody nose. He was pretty well done for, man. I said we better get that money. So he pulled out a couple hun and then he was like, “Here, here, here, here you go. Take it. Take it.” He said, “Just don't kill me.”

NARRATOR:

Dr. Weber made his way to the IHS hospital. Bill Pourier, the hospital CEO, says security guards called him, and said one of his doctors had been assaulted.

BILL POURIER, Former CEO, Pine Ridge IHS hospital:

So I went up there and Dr. Weber was laying on a, on a gurney in the, in the emergency room. He looked rather beaten up and traumatized and so forth. So I asked him, “What's going on, here?” I said, “Who did this to you?” He wouldn't tell me. He wouldn't say nothing.

CHRISTOPHER WEAVER, The Wall Street Journal:

He wouldn't say anything at all?

BILL POURIER:

He wouldn't say nothing and it was frustrating.

NARRATOR:

Pourier says that he reported what happened to IHS’s regional headquarters, but that his bosses never pursued the matter, and he was afraid to take it any further.

BILL POURIER:

I probably would have been suspended, maybe even fired. You know, pretty much they can do what they want with you.

MARK BUTTERBRODT, M.D., Former IHS physician:

When he was beaten to the point of needing skull X-rays and no charges were filed for beating up a commissioned officer on federal grounds to the point where he needed skull films, I thought: What on earth is going on? What kind of coverup is this? I mean this involves a lot of people in a lot of high places.

NARRATOR:

Outraged, Dr. Butterbrodt would become increasingly fixated on exposing Dr. Weber.

Law enforcement interview excerpts

STANLEY PATRICK WEBER:

[subtitles] Dr. Butterbrodt has been trying to hang me because apparently he heard that there was an accusation of abuse. OK? And he’s been bringing it up ever since. OK? Repeatedly.

CURT MULLER:

[subtitle] Why would there be a rub that he would bring things up?

STANLEY PATRICK WEBER:

[subtitles] That’s the way he lives his life. He starts, you know, jumping on people.

CURT MULLER:

[subtitle] Right.

STANLEY PATRICK WEBER:

[subtitles] And I don’t know why he does that. It’s… You have to ask him.

MARK BUTTERBRODT, M.D., Former IHS physician:

I think a lot of people thought I was overreacting. And people would say to me, “You don't have any real evidence.” And that was always the Indian Health Service line, too. You know, we've looked at the data bank. There's no complaints on him. He's clean.

And I learned that there was a psychologist who had worked with him at Browning and was aware of his activities in Browning, Montana, prior to 1995 when he came here.

NARRATOR:

It was Dan and Becky Foster who had had concerns about Weber’s behavior on the Blackfeet Reservation.

DAN FROSCH, The Wall Street Journal:

When Mark is telling you guys basically saying a crime has been committed, how did that make you guys feel?

BECKY FOSTER:

Well, I think it, I think we just… So you get to be just so angry and frustrated and then just kind of numb. Because part of what happens is that you can see all of these young people be hurt and knowing that you’ve tried to do everything that you could do within the bounds of what’s available to you, and then nothing happens. It says to me, as an Indian woman, as a mother, is that your kids don’t matter.

DAN FOSTER:

I felt deeply hurt and very angry. The anger was because I felt it was preventable.

NARRATOR:

In fact, years earlier, Dan Foster had heard Weber was working at Pine Ridge and contacted IHS leaders there to warn them.

DAN FROSCH:

Would you have said in as explicit terms, I’m worried this guy’s a pedophile?

DAN FOSTER:

Yes. Oh, I was clear. My concerns was that this man was sexually using children.

NARRATOR:

After the encounter, Dr. Butterbrodt was more determined than ever that Weber had to go. He complained to state medical boards and officials at the IHS. And he believed he’d finally found proof in a list of patients Weber had ordered tests on.

MARK BUTTERBRODT:

So I looked at these charts and there weren’t any girls. They were all boys. On this page, there are 14 patients and there's one female. One out of 14.

I kept asking myself why would a pediatrician zero in on a population consisting of normal-weight boys and teenage boys? It just seemed incomprehensible to me.

NARRATOR:

Dr. Weber was suspended while the allegations were investigated.

CHRISTOPHER WEAVER, The Wall Street Journal:

When Dr. Weber was suspended by the Indian Health Service over allegations of misconduct in 2009, one of the officials who was sent to look into this was this guy Ron Keats.

NARRATOR:

Keats, who was one of Weber’s superiors at the time, would soon leave the IHS under a cloud himself and later be convicted of possession of child pornography.

CHRISTOPHER WEAVER:

So, effectively, they sent a guy who would go on to be arrested a year later of trafficking in child porn to investigate suspicions that their pediatrician could be a pedophile.

NARRATOR:

Keats did not respond to requests for comment. Weber was ultimately cleared and went back to work, according to Bill Pourier.

BILL POURIER, Former CEO, Pine Ridge IHS hospital:

The higher-ups, I guess, basically told me there was… They couldn't find one reason to keep him on suspension. There was no facts, evidence, to support what happened and so forth and that's pretty much what they gave me, the answer they gave me. So we just, directed me to put him back to work.

CHRISTOPHER WEAVER:

At that time did you believe that Dr. Weber was, you know, potentially engaged in some kind of misconduct towards children?

BILL POURIER:

Yeah, I kind of felt that there could possibly be something going on here ’cause I started looking at everything, but you know, I just never got nothing. You know, I was frustrated as well.

NARRATOR:

In the summer of 2010, at the Pine Ridge hospital, Dr. Weber and Dr. Butterbrodt would clash over the care of a patient. Dr. Weber claimed he was threatened.

MARK BUTTERBRODT:

Within an hour, I'm sitting in the office of the acting clinical director in Pine Ridge. And finally, I said something really out of line. I said, “If I'd wanted to intimidate him I would have cut his nuts off with a rusty knife.”

And that remark went right to Washington. I was branded as a violent, out-of-control person and within a few weeks was traveling up to Belcourt, North Dakota, leaving my life and my career and my family, everything.

NARRATOR:

The IHS sent Dr. Butterbrodt to one of its most remote outposts, 575 miles away on the Canadian border.

MARK BUTTERBRODT:

The nurses came up to me and said, “Now you know why we don't say anything, Dr. B. Look what they've done to you.” I was ordered to leave. I was chased off by a pedophile and the people who chose him over me.

NARRATOR:

Months later, a new IHS chief medical officer arrived in the region.

ROD CUNY, M.D., Former IHS regional chief medical officer:

You know, it just seemed like the perfect storm of issues that kind of arose.

NARRATOR:

Rod Cuny determined that Dr. Butterbrodt had been unfairly punished.

ROD CUNY:

Now I credit Mark Butterbrodt because he, I mean he laid his career on the line in doing what he needed to do. Really, he did the right things, and you know, and he's a direct result of people fearing would happen, what might happen to you. I mean, it happened to him, and that's why people didn't come forward like he did. And that's sad that that attitude has to prevail, but you know, people are scared to come forward.

NARRATOR:

Many of the officials who ran IHS during the years Dr. Weber was there declined to be interviewed. But reporter Chris Weaver tracked down Bob McSwain.

CHRISTOPHER WEAVER:

Mr. McSwain?

BOB McSWAIN, Former IHS director:

Yeah.

CHRISTOPHER WEAVER:

Hi. I’m Chris Weaver.

NARRATOR:

He worked at the IHS for more than 40 years, including two stints as director. McSwain conceded the agency has long tolerated problem doctors like Weber.

BOB McSWAIN:

It goes back to the, the very heart of, they needed his skills, and so they, they moved him around to, to maintain his, his contribution. It’s fair to say that because of the, the absolute need to fill positions, we don’t really get the best of the best. We get someone who… They have a degree, they’re licensed. And our requirement on licensing is at least licensed in one state in the system.

And there’s a strange tolerance level that: Oh, OK, the guy’s a, a womanizer, or a guy’s this and a guy’s that. But he comes in to see patients. OK? The, the, the antithesis is what would it be if he didn’t come in? Who’s going to see the patients?

SEN. BYRON DORGAN, D-N.D., 1992-2011:

[Senate hearing] I call the hearing to order. This is a hearing of the Indian Affairs Committee.

NARRATOR:

In 2010, the dysfunction at the IHS got attention in Washington, at the Senate’s Indian Affairs Committee. Sen. Byron Dorgan was chairman at the time.

SEN. BYRON DORGAN:

[Senate hearing] We got a couple employees here that are trouble. And not only does the employee not get disciplined, but the employee gets a bonus.

SEN. BYRON DORGAN:

We found people who were transferred from one to the other, despite the fact that there were allegations of drug misuse, stealing, sexual abuse, inappropriate behavior, a whole series of things that would, in almost every other circumstance in life, require you to discharge someone, fire someone. Instead, the Indian Health Service moves them. They transfer them. They move them to the next service unit. And let’s have somebody else live with the incompetence and the mistakes.

SEN. BYRON DORGAN:

[Senate hearing] This system is not working, just isn’t working.

SEN. BYRON DORGAN:

We tried to browbeat the IHS in every way we knew how to get them to straighten out and they just seem impervious to improvement and they could not get it right.

NARRATOR:

In the case of Dr. Weber, warnings continued to go unheeded for years. In 2011, one of them reached Wehnona Stabler, then the CEO of the Pine Ridge Hospital. She says a caller complained about Dr. Weber, but didn’t provide her any specifics. The matter never went anywhere. Stabler later received a gift of $5,000 from Dr. Weber, and would plead guilty to not reporting it on a government ethics form. She didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Then, one day in 2015, it all started to unravel.

A tribal prosecutor recalled something Dr. Mark Butterbrodt had told her years before.

ELAINE YELLOW HORSE, Former prosecutor, Oglala Sioux Tribe:

Mark and I are really good friends. I've known him since I was in high school. So he was frustrated I remember one day, and he told me about me about Dr. Weber and how he was molesting kids.

I was driving to work and there was snow on the ground when I was thinking about the case. And I was like: I wonder if the attorney general even heard about this?

TATEWIN MEANS, Former attorney general, Oglala Sioux Tribe:

She just asked, “There's some leads that I have on this. Can I start looking into this and seeing what I can find?” So I said, “Absolutely. If you can find something, let's track it down and we'll take that information forward.”

NARRATOR:

As in the past, it was hard to get anyone to talk.

ELAINE YELLOW HORSE:

Weber's alleged victims are all boys. So you know, it's even that much harder to get a, a boy or a man to speak about sexual abuse. So I think trust is a big thing.

TATEWIN MEANS:

We felt it was a priority to at least identify a potential victim so that it wouldn't be dismissed anymore; so that it would be taken seriously and a full investigation would happen.

NARRATOR:

They began to look into the assault on Dr. Weber a decade earlier.

ELAINE YELLOW HORSE:

I learned that he was beat up really bad; that he was so beaten that he had to get MRIs done. What I think people should've noticed was that he didn't press any charges on anybody.

TATEWIN MEANS:

And those whole circumstances just looked odd. There was something not right about that.

ELAINE YELLOW HORSE:

And I did go looking for that police report ’cause if he was beat up so bad, you know, the ambulances should’ve came, police officers should’ve came. But I couldn’t find anything.

NARRATOR:

After months of searching, she found a woman who said she knew the boys who’d done it.

ELAINE YELLOW HORSE:

But she didn't give me much detail. She just said, “Yeah, they came to me that night after they beat up Dr. Weber.” She gave me the name of one of them. And I was like, all right fine. I have this one name to go on. We found out he was in prison, state prison.

NARRATOR:

It was Paul, by then in his late 20s.

PAUL:

[subtitles] He’s a bad man because of what he did in the past, what, what we went though, what I was put through. That’s the type of stuff that deserves punishment and he, he got what he had coming to him. But that’s why what happened, happened.

TATEWIN MEANS:

And after we received that information, we provided that, that potential victim's name to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Law enforcement interview excerpts

CURT MULLER, Special Agent, Department of Health and Human Services:

[subtitle] Today’s date is May 19, 2016.

NARRATOR:

Federal investigators followed the trail the tribal authorities had uncovered. It started with Paul’s name and led to Dr. Weber’s door.

CURT MULLER:

[subtitles] Dr. Weber’s been kind enough to invite us into his home to discuss a few things. Now is it all right if we record the conversations?

STANLEY PATRICK WEBER:

[subtitle] Yeah.

FRED BENNETT, Agent:

[subtitles] Specifically, there’s an allegation against Dr. Weber involving a patient of yours in the past.

STANLEY PATRICK WEBER:

[subtitles] I heard from another kid that he had made an accusation that I was sexually molesting him.

FRED BENNETT:

[subtitles] How about we go back to when he was a juvenile and he was in the juvenile service center in Rapid City. He’s saying that on that day he had sex with you.

STANLEY PATRICK WEBER:

[subtitle] No, it’s not true.

FRED BENNETT:

[subtitle] And specifically that you gave him a b--- job inside your car.

STANLEY PATRICK WEBER:

[subtitle] It didn’t happen.

FRED BENNETT:

[subtitle] And then you guys had anal intercourse at the Motel 6?

STANLEY PATRICK WEBER:

[subtitle] Never happened.

FRED BENNETT:

[subtitles] And at one particular time, you guys had sex in the mall parking lot at the Rushmore Mall in Rapid City?

STANLEY PATRICK WEBER:

[subtitle] Never happened.

CURT MULLER:

[subtitles] The problem is, the records that show that you rented the room on the same day he got picked up.

STANLEY PATRICK WEBER:

[subtitles] I don’t remember anything. I mean, I can never, ever remember checking into a hotel with Paul.

CURT MULLER:

[subtitles] Did it ever concern you that people would talk in the community about boys coming over a lot?

STANLEY PATRICK WEBER:

[subtitle] Butterbrodt was somebody that, that I know he’s complained about it.

CURT MULLER:

[subtitle] Is he wrong when he says you were picking up little boys?

STANLEY PATRICK WEBER:

[subtitle] I have not had sex with my patients.

CURT MULLER:

[subtitles] Do you remember any of the, the providers by the name of Foster? Did you ever talk to them about these allegations?

STANLEY PATRICK WEBER:

[subtitle] I can’t remember.

CURT MULLER:

[subtitle] Did you ever discuss these things with Bill Pourier when he was CEO?

STANLEY PATRICK WEBER:

[subtitle] Not really.

CURT MULLER:

[subtitle] You mentioned that kids stayed with you at your house in Blackfeet.

STANLEY PATRICK WEBER:

[subtitle] They did at times.

CURT MULLER:

[subtitle] And you don’t remember anybody by the name of Four Horns?

STANLEY PATRICK WEBER:

[subtitle] Four Horns? No I don’t.

NARRATOR:

The years of accusations had finally caught up with Dr. Weber. Federal prosecutors would charge him with the abuse of four boys on Pine Ridge and two on the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana.

In September 2018, more than two decades after he was forced off the Blackfeet Reservation, Dr. Weber arrived at the courthouse in Great Falls, Montana, to stand trial. The first witness was Joe Four Horns, now 35 years old.

DAN FROSCH, The Wall Street Journal:

And in walks Joe and he is this muscle-bound guy, tattoos on his face, shackled. Very tough-looking guy.

The prosecutor, in her opening statement, she puts up a picture of Joe Four Horns when he was about 10 or 11 years old, right around the time that he would have been abused by Dr. Weber. She wants the jury to remember this little boy.

NARRATOR:

Recording was not allowed in the court. This is the trial testimony voiced by actors.

LORI SUEK, Prosecutor:

[actor’s voice] “Can I call you Joe?”

JOE FOUR HORNS:

[actor’s voice] “Yeah.”

DAN FROSCH:

Joe answers their questions. It’s clear he does not want to be on the stand.

LORI SUEK:

[actor’s voice] “Did he ever kiss you?”

JOE FOUR HORNS:

[actor’s voice] “Yeah.”

LORI SUEK:

[actor’s voice] “Where did he kiss you?”

JOE FOUR HORNS:

[actor’s voice] “The lips, my face, my neck and my chest.”

LORI SUEK:

[actor’s voice] “Did he touch any other part of your body with his hand?”

JOE FOUR HORNS:

[actor’s voice] “Yeah, my penis.”

DAN FROSCH:

Dr. Weber is sitting there, emotionless…

LORI SUEK:

[actor’s voice] “Did you ever touch his penis?”

DAN FROSCH:

…placid.

JOE FOUR HORNS:

[actor’s voice] “Yeah, yes.”

LORI SUEK:

[actor’s voice] “Why did you do that?”

JOE FOUR HORNS:

[actor’s voice] “Because he told me to.”

DAN FROSCH:

He looks more like the little boy on the screen than he does the hardened felon that is sitting there. He’s talking about the most humiliating thing that you could ever imagine talking about. He breaks down crying.

NARRATOR:

Dr. Weber’s attorney questioned why Joe had never spoken up before.

DAN FROSCH:

Joe reacts in a way that undercuts the defense’s entire sort of line of questioning.

JOE FOUR HORNS:

[actor’s voice] “Right now, I don’t want to talk about this. I don’t ever want to talk about that.”

DAN FROSCH:

And explained in really sort of honest, gut-wrenching, visceral terms, why he had never told anybody about this.

JOE FOUR HORNS:

[actor’s voice] “I got molested as a little kid, man. I don’t want to talk about that. All right, I’ll tell you the truth: Those pieces of s---, those child molesters, they deserve to be in prison. They don’t deserve to be on the street. They deserve to get f------ f----- up and f------ killed in prison. And that’s what’s gonna happen.”

DAN FROSCH:

So during his testimony and as he began sort of discussing in detail what had happened to him, his mom had to leave the courtroom in tears.

NARRATOR:

Marion Four Horns had lost custody of her son during those years.

MARION FOUR HORNS, Joe’s mother:

I never knew about any of this. And I feel bad for my boy because I wasn’t able to protect him. I feel, I really feel bad. [crying] I really hurt for him. I don’t know what to do.

NARRATOR:

The extent of the allegations against Dr. Weber would begin to emerge as the trial unfolded, with more men describing what they said he’d done to them as boys.

DAN FROSCH:

The prosecution brings several corroborating witnesses from Pine Ridge. And as was the case with Joe, you see these tough guys sort of reduced to little boys.

NARRATOR:

Despite the testimony against him, Dr. Weber continued to shrug off the allegations.

STANLEY PATRICK WEBER:

It’s a nice day today! Nice sunny day!

NARRATOR:

On the third day of the trial, the jury came back with its verdict: guilty on multiple counts of sexual abuse. Weber is appealing and, later this year, he’s scheduled to go on trial in South Dakota for alleged abuses there.

ELAINE YELLOW HORSE, Former prosecutor, Oglala Sioux Tribe:

I'm very glad that he was caught. I still am frustrated that he was allowed to work for so long in that environment. I think I'm still frustrated that more people haven't been charged criminally.

MARION FOUR HORNS:

There was obviously a lot of people that knew something was going on and they didn’t do anything. They just let him go. I feel like somebody should pay for, for what all these boys went though because people knew.

NARRATOR:

To date, no one else in the IHS has been held accountable. And many of the officials who oversaw Dr. Weber did not respond to requests for comment.

But following questions from FRONTLINE and The Wall Street Journal, the agency ordered an independent investigation of Weber’s tenure.

The current head of IHS agreed to talk about it, and asked to do the interview at the hospital on Pine Ridge where Weber had worked.

Rear Admiral Michael Weahkee has been leading the agency since 2017.

REAR ADMIRAL MICHAEL WEAHKEE, Acting IHS director:

Since this case has come to light, we’ve been doing a lot of checking internally to, to see what people may or may not have known. If there are individuals who were aware that something was going on, then you're basically culpable and complicit in, in those actions. I'm in the process now of developing a new policy that will require that every Indian Health Service employee be a mandatory reporter.

CHRISTOPHER WEAVER:

Of what?

REAR ADMIRAL MICHAEL WEAHKEE:

Of any potential child abuse, any sexual assault, any, anything potentially criminal in nature.

CHRISTOPHER WEAVER:

And what would be a satisfying resolution to the crisis around the case of Dr. Weber?

REAR ADMIRAL MICHAEL WEAHKEE:

That he do his time, that he pay for what he did. He did a lot of damage to our agency. We've talked a lot about the difficulties we have recruiting providers. This isn't going to help.

CHRISTOPHER WEAVER:

Where do you set the bar for yourself in terms of leading the agency out of this crisis?

REAR ADMIRAL MICHAEL WEAHKEE:

I think the bar is extremely high. There are so many people depending upon us. My own family receives their health care through the Indian Health Service. So I go home every day and… The expectation is to fix this. Sorry.

NARRATOR:

In January 2019, Dr. Weber, now 70 years old, was sentenced to more than 18 years in prison. But haunting questions remain.

RANDY ROTTENBILLER, M.D., Former IHS acting clinical director:

You know, it doesn't sit well that somebody like this monster came in and did what he did. You know, and I didn't do much to prevent it. I certainly could have done more.

BILL POURIER, Former CEO, Pine Ridge IHS hospital:

Well, at that time you think of your career and job and your livelihood. So I probably would have got fired. I guess that was the risk I would’ve took. I couldn’t afford to take the risk at that time to lose my job. Do I feel responsible for it? No. No.

MARY ELLEN LaFROMBOISE, Former CEO, Browning IHS hospital:

I guess I have to blame the bureaucracy of Indian Health Service. But I, I have to say, It was on my watch that happened. I should have known better but I didn’t. That, that’s still hard for me to kind of deal with.

NARRATOR:

After nearly 30 years, no one knows how many victims of Weber’s abuse are still out there or how many other people in the Indian Health Service could have done more to stop him.

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