Protest a response to claims in lawsuit

Protesters march in front of the offices of Dr. Robert Matusz on Meadow Street in Naugatuck last Friday afternoon. –LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — Protesters marched outside the office of a local podiatrist last Friday to bring attention to a female patient’s sexual harassment claim against him.

In a lawsuit filed in Waterbury Superior Court, an unnamed plaintiff claims Robert Matusz exposed himself to her in an examination room, after asking a nurse to leave.

The lawsuit claims Robert Matusz turned around, dropped his pants, bent over and exposed himself to the plaintiff, who was there for a follow-up appointment in May 2015 after having surgery the previous month.

“The defendant’s naked buttocks were in full view of the plaintiff not more than 24 inches away her face,” according to the lawsuit.

Robert Matusz categorically denied the claims against him, according to his attorney, Joseph Mengacci.

Mengacci said Matusz will defend his reputation in court.

“This lawsuit is nothing more than an attempt by the plaintiff and her attorney to extort money from Dr. Matusz based upon false and unfounded allegations,” Mengacci said in a statement.

He said the press was notified of the lawsuit in an attempt to humiliate Matusz and extract a financial settlement. The lawsuit demands an amount of more than $15,000.

“My client will not be intimidated and bullied and will respond to these false claims in a court of law and not in the media. We will also be filing a claim against the plaintiff and her attorney for any and all damages which my client may suffer as a result of their unconscionable actions,” Mengacci said.

Attorney Kevin Creed, the plaintiff’s legal counsel, said no woman would subject herself to the type of vitriol and ridicule that comes with a case such as this. He said saying the plaintiff is trying to extort money amounts to an attack on the victim.

The plaintiff had been sexually assaulted as a young child and suffered severe emotional scars from the event, according to the complaint.

Creed said the plaintiff wants to make sure it doesn’t happen again. He said he’s sorry the situation had to get this far.

“That’s what the courts are for,” Creed said. “We live in a country where that’s how you reconcile differences.”

Matusz does not appear to have a criminal record and has not been charged in connection with the allegations. Naugatuck police Capt. Steven Hunt said the department has not had any complaints against Matusz.

Darlene Clouther, of Bantam, led five other women in a protest across the street from Matusz’s practice last Friday afternoon, holding signs saying “power is a privilege” and “silence is not a solution.”

Clouther said they heard about the lawsuit through social media. She serves on the leadership council for Friends of Fisher House Connecticut, a nonprofit organization founded by Creed.

“I know a lot of people, and a lot of people know about the case,” said Creed, adding everyone has a right to protest.

By protesting, Clouther said she hoped other patients with similar experiences would be encouraged to come forward.

Clouther said she didn’t know the woman who filed the lawsuit, but had a family member who was sexually abused by another family member.

“Just about any woman you talk to nowadays has some kind of story,” Clouther said. “We were here supporting her, right here in Connecticut. It happens here in Connecticut too.”

Robert Matusz’s wife, Angela Matusz, said her husband is a hard-working Naugatuck native who has devoted his whole life to the community.

“He’s won more awards than anyone I know,” Angela Matusz said.

She called the lawsuit a “cry for money.”

“This is what’s ruining our country,” Angela Matusz said. “How can anybody do this to him?”

Robert Matusz, 67, had practiced in Naugatuck since 1977, according to his license.

In 2011, he won the Unsung Hero award for providing exceptional care, compassion and commitment in his daily work from the Waterbury Regional Chamber of Commerce. In 2012, the Naugatuck High School Alumni Association honored him at its annual banquet. Over the years, he has offered free foot exams at the Naugatuck Senior Center and to the homeless in Waterbury.

Elio Gugliotti contributed to this article.