Ex-UCLA Gynecologist Convicted of Sexual Abuse

Dr. James Heaps was found guilty on some counts, not guilty on others
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 9, 2022 9:30 AM CST
Updated Oct 21, 2022 12:32 AM CDT
UC to Pay $243.6M Over Gynecologist's Alleged Abuse
Survivor Kara Cagle, foreground, speaks as fellow survivor Julie Wallach, background, reaches out to comfort her during a news conference in Irvine, Calif., on Tuesday.   (Leonard Ortiz/The Orange County Register via AP)

Update: The former UCLA gynecologist embroiled in a sexual abuse scandal was on Thursday convicted of some of the 21 counts he faced, which involved accusations from seven women. Dr. James Heaps, 65, was found guilty of five counts of sexually abusing female patients and not guilty on seven other counts, the AP reports. On the rest of the counts, the jury deadlocked; it's not clear whether the district attorney's office plans to refile charges on those nine counts. Our original story from Feb. 9, 2022, follows:

The University of California will pay $1.2 million to each of 203 women who alleged they were sexually abused by a former UCLA gynecologist now facing 21 felony counts, including sexual battery by fraud and sexual penetration of an unconscious person. The $243.6 million settlement announced Tuesday—following last year's $73 million settlement of a class-action lawsuit involving some 6,600 patients, per the AP—doesn't apply to more than 300 former patients who are continuing to sue over Dr. James Heaps' alleged conduct over a 35-year career that ended with his retirement in 2018, per the Los Angeles Times. Heaps' charges stem from dealings with seven female patients from 2011 to 2018.

But women who accuse Heaps of groping, simulating intercourse with an ultrasound probe, and making inappropriate comments say those dealings wouldn't have been possible had UCLA acted to remove Heaps after initial complaints. "This is long overdue," Julie Wallach said at a Tuesday press conference, noting "nothing was done" by UCLA or the California Medical Board after she alleged that Heaps sexually assaulted her in 1998. Kara Cagle added she waited "eight long years" for recognition of the "traumatic" abuse she suffered while undergoing treatment for a rare form of breast cancer, per the AP. She adds, per the Times: "My heart breaks for all the women who were not spared, all the women who suffered after me, because UCLA refused to act."

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UCLA finally launched an investigation into Heaps—once the highest paid doctor in the UC system, per the BBC—in 2017 and notified law enforcement of the allegations in June 2018, per the Times. Heaps retired, as the school declined to renew his contract, and was arrested a year later. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges. In a statement, UCLA said Heaps' alleged conduct is "reprehensible" and "we hope this settlement is one step toward providing healing and closure for the plaintiffs involved." John Manly, a lawyer representing one of Heaps' accusers, said the school had little choice but to settle as its own investigation uncovered massive failures in oversight. (More University of California stories.)

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