A former UCLA obstetrician-gynecologist who worked at the university for decades pleaded guilty Thursday to sexually assaulting patients under his care.
James Heaps, 65, was convicted 1 count of sexual battery by deception and two counts of sexual penetration of an unconscious person, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said in a statement.
The 2019 sexual abuse arrest led to hundreds more indictments and numerous lawsuits against the University of California system, netting the entity hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements.
Heaps was indicted last year on 21 counts of various types of sexual abuse, including sexual battery by deception, sexual penetration of an unconscious person and sexual exploitation of a patient, the district attorney said.
A jury acquitted the former doctor on seven of those charges, but could not reach a unanimous decision on the remaining nine counts, the statement said. No decision has been made on whether the pending counts will be retried.
Heaps will remain in custody pending sentencing, attorney Leonard Levin said. His trial is scheduled for November 17, according to the Prosecutor’s Office.
Heaps’ attorneys plan to seek a new trial, Levine said.
The misconduct alleged in the indictment occurred between 2009 and 2018, according to the District Attorney’s office. Heaps worked part-time at UCLA’s student health center from 1983 to 2010 and was hired by UCLA Health in 2014.
Nicole Gumpert, one of the victims in the case, said that while she is disappointed with the mixed verdict, moving forward was important to her “psychological, emotional and spiritual health and well-being.”
“I am here to put a face and a voice to Dr. Heaps’ horrific abuse and to tell the survivors, don’t let anything stand in your way because our road has been long and arduous,” Gumpert said in a press release. speech after the verdict.
Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón also expressed dismay that Heaps pleaded not guilty to all charges.
“The trauma Dr. Heaps has caused to the people he swore to care for is immeasurable.” said Gascon.
District attorneys can appeal the verdict if they don’t think Heaps’ prison sentence is long enough, said Danette Meyers, chief deputy in the DA’s office. Heaps faces 21 to 28 years in prison.
UCLA Health said in a statement Thursday that they are grateful for the patients who came forward.
“Sexual behavior of any kind is reprehensible and intolerable,” the statement said. “Our priority is to provide the highest quality care, ensuring patients feel safe, protected and respected.”
The University of California system has won multimillion-dollar settlements in civil cases brought against Heaps by his accusers, including a $243.6 settlement with more than two hundred people in February.
The university system also negotiated a separate $73 million settlement in November 2020. The settlement requires UCLA to create a fund to pay the 6,600 alleged victims involved in the class action lawsuit filed by seven women.
According to the settlement, her accusers could receive a base payment of $2,500 to “compensate for ordinary injury to an OB/GYN with whom UCLA had a troubling history of alleged sexual misconduct.” The payouts could be $250,000 or more depending on the information provided to court officials.