Standing on a patch of grass near the corner of Hospital and Monk Drive, Dr. Gregory McClain pleaded not guilty.
Family and friends of Dr. McClain, including his wife, Sybil, and five children joined him outside his former employer’s building, University Hospital. McClain, 43, reaffirmed his innocence Wednesday in the felony stalking case prosecutors are pursuing in Boone County against him.
“When I came to Columbia almost three years ago, I came here with a dream,” McClain told reporters. “MU had some issues with diversity. I came here to deal with those, to assist with those. It didn’t work. I’m ready to go into my next adventure with my family, but I can’t go freely with all this stuff over my head.”
Mark Richardson, the special prosecutor in the case, charged McClain with two counts of aggravated stalking on April 8. Judge Kevin Crane initially set a $100,000 cash-only bond for McClain, but lowered it Monday at a hearing to a cash or surety bond of $25,000. Court security then arrested McClain at the Monday hearing, where he quickly posted the bond.
University of Missouri police linked McClain to several harassing phone calls that his former co-workers reported in late 2014 into 2015. Two victims told police a deep voice, who identified themselves as “The Gorilla”, threatened them to “back off” and that bad things would happen to them if they didn’t listen. A probable cause statement against Jimmy Thomas, a co-defendant in the case, said one of the victims had filed a sexual harassment complaint against McClain shortly before he left the hospital in December 2014.
McClain denied having any part in the harassing phone calls, and said university officials had never approached him about a sexual harassment claim. Sybil McClain went on to say that the female victim “fabricated” the sexual harassment claim, and criticized the way police and prosecutors handled the case. McClain’s attorney, Chris Slusher, pointed out in court that the surgeon was willing to turn himself in while present in Missouri, but prosecutors waited until the end of the week, when he left the state on business, to file charges.
“I want to believe that the media reports of injustice are rare and disappearing,” she said. “But these last few months, especially these last few weeks, have caused me much doubt.”
“In the 18 months I was employed by MU, I was never approached about there possibly being some sexual harassment charge,” Dr. McClain said. “Never, period, end of discussion.”
ABC 17 News asked Dr. McClain, then, if he believed the harassing phone calls had actually happened.
“They may be victims,” McClain said, “but they’re not my victims. I’m a family man, a God-fearing man. The things I’ve been accused of don’t make sense.”
MUPD said it traced the blocked phone number that made the violent threats to Texas, and a number belonging to Thomas. The 41-year-old from Houston told police, and ABC 17 News before his arrest, that many people use his cellphone, and he had no part in the harassing calls. Thomas is being held in the Boone County jail without a chance to post bond. McClain described Thomas as a “family friend” from his time working in Texas, which he left to work at the University of Missouri. Thomas will next appear in court on April 26. His attorney, Kay Evans, has asked for a bond reduction.
The McClains also thanked friends in Columbia that supported them, particularly administrators at schools in Columbia that their children attend.
McClain does not yet have a date set for a preliminary hearing.