Dr. James Heaps, a former gynecologist at the University of California Los Angeles, was found guilty Thursday of five counts of sexually abusing female patients. The criminal case came after the university system made nearly $700 million in lawsuit payouts, according to the Associated Press. The Los Angeles jury found Heaps, a longtime UCLA campus gynecologist, not guilty of seven of the 21 counts and were deadlocked on the remaining charges. The settlement total is a record sexual-misconduct amount by a public university amid sex scandals involving campus doctors in recent years. Heaps, 65, denied any wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty to assaults of seven women between 2009 and 2018.
The jury delivered a guilty verdict on three counts of sexual battery by fraud and two counts of sexual penetration of an unconscious person. Heapswas found not guilty of seven other counts of sexual battery and penetration, as well as one count of sexual exploitation. “The trauma Dr. Heaps inflicted on the very people he had sworn to care for is immeasurable,” said Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón. “While we respect the jurors’ decisions on the acquitted counts, we are obviously disappointed.” UCLA patients said Heaps groped them, made suggestive comments, or conducted unnecessarily invasive exams during his 35-year career. Women who sued said the university ignored their complaints and deliberately concealed abuse that happened for decades during examinations. UCLA acknowledged it received a sex abuse complaint against Heaps from a patient in December 2017, launched an investigation, and concluded she was sexually assaulted and harassed. However, Heaps continued to practice until his retirement in June 2018. The university did not release its finding in the investigation until November 2019 — months after Heaps was arrested. “UCLA Health is grateful for the patients who came forward,” the university said after the verdict. “Sexual misconduct of any kind is reprehensible and intolerable. Our overriding priority is providing the highest quality care while ensuring that patients feel safe, protected and respected.”