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Former UCLA gynecologist faces additional charges of sexually abusing patients

Former UCLA gynecologist Dr. James Heaps walks with his attorney Leonard Levine and wife Deborah Heaps.
Former UCLA gynecologist Dr. James Heaps, far right, facing sexual abuse charges by a former patient, leaves Airport Superior Court after a criminal hearing on Nov. 6, 2019, in Los Angeles. Heaps is accompanied by his attorney Leonard Levine, left, and wife Deborah Heaps.
(Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times)

A grand jury indictment unsealed Monday brought additional charges against Dr. James Heaps, the former UCLA gynecologist charged with sexually abusing seven female patients.

Upon the indictment’s unsealing, Heaps was immediately remanded into custody, with a judge setting his bail at $1.19 million. He now faces a total of 21 felony counts, and his maximum prison sentence was increased by 24 years on top of the 67 years he was facing if convicted of all offenses.

Since the doctor’s arrest in June 2019, more than 300 women have come forward to allege that Heaps subjected them to sexually inappropriate comments, touched them sexually during exams without wearing gloves and simulated intercourse with an ultrasound probe.

The indictment eliminates the need for a preliminary hearing, where alleged victims could be called to testify.

Leonard Levine, Heaps’ attorney, said, “Dr. Heaps is confident he will be exonerated at trial.”

UC system to pay $73 million to alleged victims of Dr. James Heaps, who is accused of sexual abusing patients.

“Obviously, we want a hearing to be able to cross-examine these alleged victims but now we will do it at trial,” Levine said.

Levine said his client will post bail.

The UC system has acknowledged staff members received complaints about Heaps dating back to the 1990s, and even when it took a detailed report in 2017 and initiated investigations, it took a year for him to leave. UCLA made no public statements about Heaps’ alleged conduct upon his retirement in 2018, when it declined to renew his contract.

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UCLA notified law enforcement of the allegations against Heaps on June 14, 2018. In June 2019, Heaps was arrested and charged with multiple counts of sexual battery involving two patients. That criminal case expanded in August 2020 when prosecutors charged Heaps with sexually abusing five additional patients. He now faces 21 felony counts and is charged with sex crimes spanning 2011-18. The charges include sexual battery by fraud, sexual exploitation of a patient and sexual penetration of an unconscious person.

Heaps’ medical license was suspended in 2019 after he pleaded not guilty to the criminal charges.

Early this year, UCLA agreed to a $73-million class-action settlement with the alleged victims. The university was accused of knowing about numerous prior sex abuse allegations against Heaps before his departure and repeatedly allowing him to return to practice despite those allegations. Heaps has denied any wrongdoing. More than 200 patients of Heaps have opted out of the settlement to continue to pursue legal action against him. .

Attorneys Jennifer McGrath and Darren Kavinoky appeared in court Monday with three of the dozens of alleged victims they represent. They called the indictment and the bail amount “a huge victory in that so many are understanding of the depth and breadth of Dr. Heaps’ vile misbehavior.”

“This decision is one step closer to lifting the veil on UCLA’s malfeasance, and that UCLA did nothing to protect patients after knowing and concluding Dr. Heaps was a predator. We appreciate the hard work the grand jury, district attorney, prosecutor and many others put in through this process,” they said.

According to UCLA, Heaps treated about 5,000 patients for whom the institution has records and about 1,600 others for whom it does not. Heaps did not admit any wrongdoing or contribute toward the $73 million in the agreement, but he did sign off on the settlement’s terms.

Attorney John Manly, who represents more than 200 alleged victims, said authorities need to expand the criminal investigation to what he alleges is a cover-up conducted by UCLA officials that delayed the doctor being exposed and allegedly allowed him to find new victims.


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