PROVO — An Orem plastic surgeon who in a drug-and-alcohol induced rage bound and gagged his girlfriend in a closet won't go to prison but will serve time in jail.
"I dearly regret my actions and the path that I never thought I would go down. As a physician, I know better than this," Dr. Joseph Berg said Monday in 4th District Court. "I'm so sorry I lost my way. I am responsible for what happened. No one else deserves the blame."
Saying Berg could be a "mean drunk," Judge Samuel D. McVey sentenced him to 180 days in the Utah County Jail and three years probation. He also ordered the doctor to undergo drug treatment and take an anger management course.
"Hopefully, this is what it takes to hit rock bottom and never do this again," the judge said. "This is your chance to do what you told me you wanted to do, turn yourself around."
Berg, 47, pleaded guilty last December to kidnapping, a second-degree felony, and possession or use of a controlled substance and possession of a firearm by a restricted person, both third-degree felonies.
McVey imposed but suspended sentences of up to 15 years in prison. But should Berg violate any of the judge's orders, he could go to prison.
Last November, Orem police received a 911 call and responded to Berg's house. When they arrived, they heard a 48-year-old woman crying and in distress. Police broke down the front door and said they found her with her hands and wrists taped together and tied to a dresser in the closet. She also was gagged, said Utah County prosecutor Craig Johnson.
Two days later, however, the woman claimed the incident was being blown out of proportion and said she was never abused. Berg also accused police and the media of making up the story.
The woman, Lucy Schwartz, spoke on Berg's behalf Monday.
"I want to the court to know I love Joe very, very much," she told the court, adding their relationship of three years has had ups and downs
"The night of the incident was definitely a low point," Schwartz said. "I know in my heart he will be back and regain the success he had before the addiction took hold. … Joe has made great progress since that unfortunate night."
Berg indicated after the hearing that he and Schwartz plan to get married.
Defense attorney Dean Zabriskie said Berg's downward spiral began after his marriage of 22 years ended and chronic back injuries flared up. He became hooked on painkillers and alcohol and fell into depression.
"Everything collapsed and crashed on that day," Zabriskie said.
Johnson said he is satisfied Berg has owned up to what he did and called his efforts to overcome his addictions commendable. He said he offered Berg a plea bargain because has no serious criminal history and because Schwartz did not want to see the case prosecuted.1 comment on this story
Johnson said he pursued the case anyway to send a statement that domestic violence and intimidation would not be tolerated. He also wanted to see Berg get his life together.
Berg, who owned Cosmetic Plastic Surgery Institute and Day Spa in Orem, surrendered his medical license to the Utah Department of Occupational Professional Licensing. He agreed not not reapply for three years and must meet stringent requirements before doing so.
Berg told the judge that as a doctor he should know the dangers of painkillers.
"I wish I could change what occurred," he said. "However, that incident does mean something to me. It helped me understand the magnitude of the problem."