Nature of the Beast

Plastic surgeon Billy Ringer has been sued ten times for malpractice. He's on probation for sexual misconduct. He sewed a needle into Colleen Guidy. But he's still in business -- cutting, vacuuming, rearranging and, it seems, injuring patients.

Barr and Williamson tendered their resignations a day apart at the beginning of February. Sergeant John Trump, whom Ringer describes as an acquaintance, visited the clinic February 6, says Barr. He told her to keep her mouth shut about anything she knew, "or he would take me down," she says. "He can send my ass to jail." (Trump did not return messages left at the Cypresswood office.)

Trump's relationship with Ringer apparently extended beyond making courtesy calls; the sergeant got liposuctioned by Ringer on December 14, which Barr says (and records support) was a freebie.

Former Ringer medical assistant Tracy Williamson
Deron Neblett
Former Ringer medical assistant Tracy Williamson
Attorney Loren Klitsas: "We can't put him in jail. We can't punch him in the nose."
Attorney Loren Klitsas: "We can't put him in jail. We can't punch him in the nose."

Regardless of Billy Ringer's outcome with the Board of Medical Examiners or the drug investigation, he's likely going to have problems defending himself in court. The malpractice lawsuit looks like a winner for Colleen Guidy, especially with the lost suture needle glaring angrily on the X-rays. Though Ringer is sticking to his story about the needle breaking off accidentally, jurors may not be too sympathetic when they hear the testimony of Traci Williamson, who administered the anesthesia and was present throughout the surgery. During the procedure, Williamson says, Ringer suddenly yelled an obscenity. "He said he lost the needle," she recalls. "He was just yelling 'fuck' and that he had done the stupidest thing he had ever done as a surgeon."

Moreover, an independent medical examiner hired by Guidy wrote a scathing report after examining her. Guidy will need considerable medical work to repair the damage, which will include breast reconstruction, removal of the needle and the implants, the stomach wound and injury to the lymph system. "In my opinion, this is an egregious example of inappropriate surgery and care," the examiner wrote. "I strongly recommend an appropriate investigation."

The lawsuit of Michelle Barr and Traci Williamson alleging harassment and other charges will be a tougher sell. Ringer's office workers remain loyal and will no doubt testify on his behalf as they did in the malpractice case of Adriana King. But the documentation of substance abuse could well tip the balance in their favor -- if it's admitted as evidence. Though Barr says she was told to keep various records at her house and later removed a box of documents from his home at the suggestion of Ringer's relatives, he says she stole them. "She took all my original papers," he says. "She also trashed my office before she left."

Ringer says he fired Barr after returning from the Christmas break and discovering that patients had been leaving messages but not getting return calls, which was her responsibility. "She let that shit back up for blocks," he says. "She wasn't doing a damn thing."

Ringer says Barr is reacting out of fear about "what's gonna happen with the fraudulent loan she got," referring to $11,800 borrowed against a line of credit Ringer had. (She says he gave her permission, which the loan officer who arranged the deal confirms.) Barr is also upset, he says, because she had almost earned a free liposuction and would no longer be able to collect. "She wanted that done so bad," Ringer says.

The doctor is more puzzled by Williamson's collusion with Barr. "I think Traci is just the poor lost puppy syndrome," he says. "Michelle just led her down the primrose path or something."

Where that path leads is up in the air. Barr says she got a call from Ringer's relative inquiring about a settlement that might preclude publication of the story in the Press. A day later, Barr says, the relative canceled the offer to talk. Attorney Loren Klitsas, who represents Barr and Williamson as well as Guidy, says he's willing to talk, but wants above all to get Ringer out of the operating room. "I think that Dr. Ringer obviously has a lot of problems," Klitsas says, "and I feel it's my responsibility to put an end to it."

Klitsas knows, however, that the Board of Medical Examiners, not lawyers, is ultimately in control of Ringer's fate. "We can't put him in jail," he says. "We can't punch him in the nose."

"The most horrifying thing is how he slipped through the cracks with the BME," Klitsas continues. "I don't blame Ringer as much as I blame the people that are supposed to be policing him. There's no checks and balances, obviously."

Until the board does act, Ringer will be free to lengthen penises, expand breasts and drain fat without restriction. And as with Colleen Guidy, Ringer says, there are no guarantees. "Complications occur from surgery," he says. "You can't do surgery without complications."

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