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CCA Psychiatrist’s License Restricted for Sexual Misconduct with Florida Female Prisoners

Florida’s Department of Health (FDH) issued an emergency order in March 2011 that placed restrictions on a psychiatrist accused of sexual misconduct while treating female prisoners at the Hernando County Jail (HCJ). At the time of the alleged misconduct the jail was managed by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA); since August 2010, HCJ has been operated by the county.

In a March 22, 2011 order, the FDH found that the actions of Dr. James A. Yelton Rossello “regarding his patients were egregious and constitute a threat to the public health and safety.” The order restricted him from providing medical, mental health or psychiatric treatment to patients, specifying that he may treat female patients only under the supervision of a third-party licensed medical professional.

Each of the prisoners Rossello was accused of preying upon in his windowless office at the CCA-run jail were in their early to late 20s. While interviewing a 24-year-old patient identified as “C.A.,” he told her he had been married for about 24 years and was “faithful 98 percent of the time,” but that when confronted with women like her “he became a bad boy.”

In early 2009, Rossello asked C.A. to allow him to see her topless. She refused and tried to leave, but consented to give him a hug. Rossello then became aggressive, pushing her against a wall, kissing her neck and lips, and putting his hand between her legs.

When Rossello asked another prisoner, “S.B.,” to see her breasts, she complied. At his final meeting with the 24-year-old, they kissed and he said he would take her shopping when she was released from jail. She believed he was offering her goods in exchange for sex.

Rossello had at least two interviews with 21-year-old “T.A.” At a March 2010 meeting, he asked about her job as an exotic dancer and said he would like a “lap dance” from her.
After inquiring if she would have sex with him upon release, he made her sit on his lap.
Around July 2010, Rossello asked to see T.A. naked and inferred he would prescribe her medications only if she complied. When she pulled down her pants, Rossello grabbed her underwear. She pulled away and left the room. He later asked to see her socially, to receive her phone number and for a kiss, which she refused before being kissed on the cheek.

The end for Rossello began at an August 3, 2010 meeting with 29-year-old “T.W.” He asked her to pull down her pants, which she refused. He also asked to see her upon release, implying that he would trade prescription anxiety medication for sex. She informed a guard after the meeting, which led to an investigation.

CCA placed Rossello on administrative leave. “I think the conclusion was that the allegations were serious enough and credible enough,” said CCA spokesman Steve Owen, “that we did not want to keep his services.” CCA later fired Rossello.

Rossello operates a private practice in Gainesville and held the title of assistant clinical professor at the University of Florida. Upon being informed about the sexual misconduct allegations, a university spokesperson said they intended to revoke his title.

“The most important thing for [Dr. Rossello] is preserving his license, and that’s the only thing we’re focused on,” stated Jesse Smith, Rossello’s attorney. “The only accusations he’s ever faced as far as I know are related to those inmates in Hernando County.”

Three of the prisoners Rossello is accused of molesting have since filed a civil suit against him and CCA in Hernando County Circuit Court. One of the prisoners claimed that CCA placed her in solitary confinement after she reported Rossello’s misconduct. Another said Rossello would bring her lunch, but wouldn’t let her eat unless she sat on his lap.

Prosecutors are awaiting the outcome of the FDH’s investigation to determine if criminal charges are appropriate. Florida law requires penetration to charge a doctor with sexual battery against a patient. “His acts, while reprehensible, do not violate those statutes. It might have been bargained for, but it wasn’t against their will,” said prosecutor Brian Trehy. “I don’t know whether he’s broken Florida laws at this point. I have to wait on the experts to tell me that.”

Of course, it doesn’t take an expert to know that if the allegations against Rossello are proven, he has no business treating female prisoners – or anyone else for that matter. See: Dept. of Health v. Rossello, Florida Dept. of Health Administrative Complaint, Case No. 2010-23877.

Sources: St Petersburg Times, Hernando Today,,

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Related legal case

Dept. of Health v. Rossello