A federal lawsuit alleges that a prominent Wilkes County surgeon tried to blackmail a nurse practitioner into having sex with him for one hour, twice a month. If she didn’t comply, he threatened to reveal secretly recorded conversations to her husband and other members of her family.
The doctor worked at Wilkes Medical Center, which is managed by Wake Forest Baptist Health. Dr. Jon Wesley Thompson, according to the lawsuit, was at one point the only general surgeon in Wilkes County and had been regional medical director with Wake Forest Baptist Health. He was fired after the nurse filed a sexual harassment complaint.
Thompson still has an active medical license, according to the N.C. Medical Board.
The nurse is seeking more than $525,000 in damages. The lawsuit makes four claims — violation of the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act, invasion of privacy, civil sexual assault and battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The lawsuit said the nurse has had trouble sleeping and is dealing with anxiety, depression, humiliation and embarrassment.
Jenny L. Sharpe, the nurse’s attorney, filed the lawsuit on July 21 in U.S. District Court in the Middle District of North Carolina. Thompson is named as the only defendant. Sharpe could not be immediately reached for comment Monday. The Winston-Salem Journal does not name alleged victims of sexual assault.
An unidentified woman answered a cellphone associated with Thompson late Monday afternoon. When a Journal reporter asked to speak with Thompson, she said, “He no longer lives here.” Asked how to contact Thompson, the woman said, “Nope. No one is going to give you a comment. Thank you.” Then she hung up.
According to the lawsuit, the nurse began working for Thompson in 2017, after Wake Forest Baptist Health took over management of Wilkes Medical Center.
For four years, their relationship was professional and platonic, the lawsuit said. He also was the nurse’s physician, performing several medical procedures on the woman.
Then on May 17, 2021, Thompson told the nurse that he was having problems in his marriage and that she was attractive. He further told her that he was interested in having a relationship outside of work, the lawsuit said.
Thompson later apologized, and the nurse thought it was an isolated incident, according to the lawsuit.
On June 11, Thompson, while in his truck, told the nurse that he had audio and video recordings on his cellphone that contained “highly personal, confidential, and potentially damaging information” about the woman, the lawsuit said. The recordings were of conversations the nurse had with someone other than Thompson. The lawsuit does not provide details about the contents of the recordings.
Thompson told the nurse he had copies of the recordings on his cellphone and in other places, and that there were devices that someone could buy that could capture conversations simply by pointing the device. He also told her that there were cameras and other devices that could see through tinted windows.
Thompson told the nurse that he would not release those recordings if she agreed to have “physical alone time” with him for one hour, twice a month, for one year. Then he told her several times that he found her attractive.
The nurse believed Thompson was asking her for sex. Thompson also told her that he could help her attain bigger bonuses from Wake Forest Baptist Health and that their professional relationship would not change because he knew she could “compartmentalize” the sexual relationship, the lawsuit alleges.
Thompson told the nurse that he wanted to start having sex that day and that they could go to his apartment because they did not have any surgery scheduled for the rest of the day, the lawsuit said.
The nurse asked to wait until June 14 before she made a decision. Thompson agreed but told her if she refused, he would “send the audio- and video-recordings to her husband and other members of her family.” And, the lawsuit said, Thompson implied that if she refused, she could also lose her job.
The lawsuit said on June 14, Thompson became suspicious and placed his hands on the nurse’s waist “in an aggressive manner without her consent.” The nurse told Thompson not to touch her and was scared that he might harm her, the lawsuit said.
The next day, the nurse and her husband went to Wilkes Medical Center for a scheduled medical procedure. Thompson approached the husband and asked for his contact information, including an email address. Thompson also sent a friend request on Facebook to the nurse’s grandfather and husband, the lawsuit said.
The nurse met with Wake Forest Baptist officials on June 16 and filed a sexual harassment complaint.
The lawsuit said Thompson was fired on June 18.
In a statement, Wake Forest Baptist Health said it was proud to have the woman as one of its dedicated nurse practitioners.
“We encourage all our teammates to immediately report unacceptable behavior,” the statement said. “We immediately investigate and address such concerns to protect our colleagues.”
The statement said Wake Forest Baptist officials would not comment on the lawsuit, “which appropriately does not name Wake Forest Baptist Health as a defendant.”