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L.A. County prosecutors reviewing nearly 30 cases against USC's former gynecologist

L.A. County prosecutors reviewing nearly 30 cases against USC's former gynecologist
Dr. George Tyndall and Engemann Student Health Center (USC; Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

LAPD detectives have presented the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office with nearly 30 cases for possible sex-crime charges against USC’s former campus gynecologist, Dr. George Tyndall.

Capt. Billy Hayes, the head of LAPD’s Robbery-Homicide Division, said Thursday that the cases were the result of a sweeping criminal investigation of Tyndall, who treated thousands of women at USC’s student health center during a nearly three-decade career.

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The Times revealed in May that Tyndall was accused repeatedly of misconduct by patients and staff but continued treating students until 2016.

In the wake of the newspaper’s reporting, hundreds of women came forward, and investigators have traveled across the nation to interview about 220 former patients of Tyndall who have accused the physician of misconduct.

“This is the most victims for one perpetrator that I can recall in LAPD history,” said Hayes, who said the wide-ranging investigation is ongoing. “We are working very closely with experienced prosecutors in sex crimes and medical issues.”

Tyndall has not been charged with a crime and in interviews this spring, the 71-year-old gynecologist maintained that his medical exams were always appropriate. His defense attorney, Leonard Levine, told The Times this week that his client did not violate the law.

"Dr. Tyndall takes all allegations seriously, but he continues to maintain that he engaged in no criminal conduct, and that his medical examinations were always within the standard of care for such examinations,” Levine said.

The lead prosecutor assigned from the district attorney’s sex-crimes division has been accompanying LAPD detectives and has attended some initial interviews with former patients of Tyndall.

Prosecutors have received the cases gradually from detectives, and Hayes said as many as 50 cases could reach prosecutors for consideration of criminal charges.

Among the most serious crimes under investigation by the LAPD is finger penetration.

Witnesses to Tyndall’s exams said that he frequently commented on the tightness of patients' vaginal muscles, made inappropriate remarks about their sex lives, and touched patients inappropriately during breast and pelvic exams.

The physician routinely inserted one to two fingers in patients after voicing concern that a speculum might not fit, and commented on their bodies as he probed them, the witnesses told The Times.

Tyndall said in interviews that his use of fingers had a legitimate medical purpose and said some of his comments to patients were misinterpreted.

An internal inquiry by USC in 2016 and 2017 disagreed, finding that his pelvic exams were outside the scope of accepted medical practice and amounted to sexual harassment of patients.

USC has said that complaints about Tyndall dating to the early 2000s reached the clinic’s executive director, who “handled patient complaints independently.”

The university said it was unclear why Tyndall was allowed to remain in his position. It was only after a nurse, frustrated by inaction of her bosses, reported Tyndall to the campus rape crisis center in 2016 that the gynecologist was removed.

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Since the allegations against Tyndall were revealed, more than 340 women have filed civil suits against USC, and uproar over the university’s handling of the physician led to the ouster of President C. L. Max Nikias. Aerospace executive Wanda Austin, a graduate of USC’s engineering program, has taken on the role of interim president as trustees search for Nikias’ permanent successor.

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