Little Rock pediatrician in abuse case hit with suit

Doctor gave up license in ’18

James Nesmith is shown in his 2017 booking photo.
James Nesmith is shown in his 2017 booking photo.

A Little Rock pediatrician who gave up his medical license rather than face the possibility of a prison sentence is the target of a lawsuit by four men who say Dr. James "Darrell" Nesmith sexually abused them as teenagers.

In 2018, Nesmith, now 58, pleaded guilty to second-degree sexual assault for molesting a teenage boy over a four-year span between 2004 and 2008, beginning when the victim was 14. The boy knew Nesmith through their church, Covenant Presbyterian in Little Rock, where Nesmith had been a youth director, deacon and Boy Scout troop leader.

Court records show Nesmith pleaded guilty in exchange for a sentence of five years on probation, conditioned on him giving up his medical license, after prosecutors announced they had three other accusers who would testify that Nesmith had similarly abused them, a court filing shows. He also was fined the maximum $15,000, required to register as a sex offender and forbidden from being around children without adult supervision. He faced a 20-year maximum sentence on the Class B felony charge.

Nesmith was arrested about five months after his victim came forward in 2017 at age 27, telling Little Rock police that Nesmith, who had been a mentor and family friend, would make him participate in "erection games" and take part in a "naked hang-out club."

During his medical career, Nesmith was an associate professor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Science and part of Arkansas Children's Hospital's Sports Medicine Plus program, running its concussion clinic. He also spent time as team doctor for Maumelle High School and Little Rock's Central High School.

Nesmith's new accusers in the lawsuit filed Wednesday are four men between the ages of 28-36 who say Nesmith molested them as children and teenagers in the 1990s and 2010s. Three of them say that the abuse occurred while they were under his medical care at Children's Hospital, while the fourth is a victim who knew him through Covenant Presbyterian, according to the suit. None of the hospitals or churches Nesmith was associated with are accused of wrongdoing in the lawsuit.

One of the men was 10 when Nesmith started abusing him, their lawyer said Friday. Josh Gillispie of the Green and Gillispie firm of North Little Rock specializes is representing survivors of childhood sexual abuse, and in that capacity has brought suit against Boy Scouts of America and its local Quapaw Area Council, the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, Baptist Hospital and the Catholic Diocese of Little Rock.

Gillispie called Nesmith a "sexual predator" and "serial child molester" who likely has numerous other victims, Gillispie said in the news release about the lawsuit.

"A serial child molester who works as a pediatrician during the week and serves as a youth director at his church on weekends -- that is truly the nightmare scenario," Gillispie said in a news release. "Nesmith's true victim number will likely never be known, but the prevailing research and statistics on this type of serial predator would suggest it's over 100, particularly given the unique access to children Dr. Nesmith enjoyed as a pediatrician for 25 years."

Gillispie said the four accusers brought suit under a "lookback window" provision enacted as part of the Justice for Vulnerable Victims of Sexual Abuse Act passed by state lawmakers last year. The law, Arkansas Code 16-118-118, allows sexual-assault victims to sue their abusers over accusations that would have otherwise been barred by the statute of limitations.

The law created a two-year period to bring such litigation that expires in January 2024.


The four men are identified only by their initials in the suit.

HC of Searcy states in the lawsuit that he was molested at least 20 times from ages 10 to 15 at Children's Hospital Adolescent Clinic where Nesmith treated him for juvenile Type 1 diabetes. The doctor would make the boy's mother leave the room then make the boy undress before Nesmith groped him while pretending he was conducting a medical exam.

LS, also of Searcy, states he was molested four times between 2000 and 2001 at the adolescent clinic when he was 15 and 16. Nesmith was supposed to be treating him for juvenile diabetes but would make his mother leave the room before removing the boy's pants and groping him on the exam table, according to the lawsuit.

RT of Little Rock was a 13-year-old boy in a wheelchair due to arthrogryposis that left him limited use of his arms and legs in September 2007 when he was groped by Nesmith at the clinic under the pretext of a physical examination, the lawsuit states. He was there to have his ears cleaned and to get referrals for other services. According to the lawsuit, the boy was so upset by what had happened that he and his foster mother immediately went to Little Rock police that same day but authorities sided with Nesmith when the doctor said all that occurred had been a normal medical exam.

TK, also of Little Rock, knew Nesmith because both belonged to Covenant Presbyterian Church, the lawsuit states. He was molested at least 30 times between 2001 and 2004, beginning when he was 15, mostly at Nesmith's previous residence on Holmes Drive in Little Rock but also at Lake Maumelle. Nesmith fondled the boy and made him engage in mutual masturbation, according to the lawsuit.

The nine-page lawsuit before Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox accuses Nesmith of committing sexual assault and sexual battery, with claims for outrage due to the defendant intentionally inflicting emotional distress by actions that were "extreme, outrageous and utterly intolerable in a civilized community."

The four seek compensation for their suffering, stating they've suffered physically, emotionally and mentally for years because of childhood sexual abuse that has kept them from living normal lives. They further state they are due punitive damages because of Nesmith being a pediatrician who knew what he was doing would likely harm the boys, making his behavior malicious.

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