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Former UCLA gynecologist found guilty in sexual abuse case

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LOS ANGELES — A former gynecologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, was found guilty Thursday on five counts of sexually abusing female patients, in a criminal case that followed after the university system made nearly $700 million in payouts.

The Los Angeles jury found Dr. James Heaps, a longtime gynecologist on the UCLA campus, not guilty on seven of the 21 counts and was jailed on the remaining charges.

In the wake of the scandal that erupted in 2019 after the doctor’s arrest, UCLA agreed to pay nearly $700 million in lawsuit settlements to hundreds of Heaps patients — a record amount by a public university amid a wave of sexual misconduct scandals by campus physicians in recent years.

Heaps, 65, pleaded not guilty to 21 offenses in the sexual assault of seven women between 2009 and 2018. He denies wrongdoing.

Heaps was charged on multiple counts last year for sexual abuse by fraud, sexual exploitation of a patient and sexual penetration of an unconscious person through fraudulent representation.

The jury found a guilty verdict on three counts of sexual battery by fraud and two counts of sexual penetration of an unconscious person. He was found not guilty on seven other counts of sexual battery and penetration, as well as one count of sexual exploitation. The jury was suspended on the nine remaining counts, prompting the judge to declare a mistrial on those charges.

He will be sentenced on November 17.

The prosecutor’s office said it has not yet decided whether prosecutors will retry the hanged counts.

“The trauma Dr. Heaps inflicted on the people he swore to care for is immeasurable.” Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón said in a statement. “While we respect the judges’ decisions on the acquitted cases, we are of course disappointed.”

Heaps’ attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.

“The horrific abuse he committed against cancer patients and others who trusted him as their physician has been exposed and justice served,” attorney John Manly, who represented more than 200 women in civil cases against Heaps and UCLA, said in a statement. after the verdict.

Sexual abuse by doctors on college campuses has led to mass settlements at Ohio State University, Johns Hopkins University and Columbia University.

UCLA’s payouts are higher than a $500 million settlement by Michigan State University in 2018, that was considered the largest by a public university. The University of Southern California, a private institution, has agreed to pay more than $1 billion to settle thousands of cases against the school’s longtime gynecologist, who is still facing criminal charges in Los Angeles.

UCLA patients said Heaps groped them, made suggestive comments, or conducted unnecessarily invasive examinations during his 35-year career. Women who filed the lawsuits said the university ignored their complaints and concealed willful abuse that took place for decades during exams at the UCLA student health center, the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center or the Heaps campus office.

UCLA acknowledged that it had received a sexual abuse complaint against Heaps from a patient in December 2017, and it launched an investigation the following month that concluded she had been sexually assaulted and harassed, lawyers said.

However, Heaps continued to practice until his retirement in June 2018. The university did not disclose its findings in the investigation until November 2019 — months after Heaps was arrested.

“UCLA Health is grateful to the patients who came forward,” the university said in a statement following the verdict. “Sexual misconduct of any kind is objectionable and unacceptable. Our top priority is to provide the highest quality care and make sure patients feel safe, protected and respected.”

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