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Ex-USC gynecologist George Tyndall pleads not guilty to sexual abuse charges

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George Tyndall, the former USC gynecologist accused of sexual misconduct, made his first court appearance Monday in downtown Los Angeles.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Wearing a blue suicide prevention vest, George Tyndall, the gynecologist accused of sexual misconduct toward hundreds of USC students, pleaded not guilty Monday to charges of sexually abusing 16 patients at the campus clinic where he practiced for decades.

Following a couple of days in the hospital after complaints of chest pain, a disheveled-looking Tyndall made his first appearance in court since his arrest last week on 29 felony counts.

The 72-year-old former USC physician appeared in jailhouse clothing, with matted and uncombed hair. He did not address the judge but whispered with his attorney, Andrew Flier, who entered a not guilty plea as Tyndall leaned against a glass cage that holds inmates.

“He’s not suicidal whatsoever,” Flier told reporters outside the court.

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The attorney has fast-tracked Tyndall’s case, refusing to waive a preliminary hearing that was set for July 12.

“We aren’t waiving prelim with this bail,” Flier said outside court. “We didn’t think it would be prudent or in the best interests of the client.”

The move means prosecutors will be forced within days to prove there is enough evidence to proceed to trial.

Flier also asked for a hearing Wednesday to review Tyndall’s $2.075-million bail.

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FULL COVERAGE: Former USC gynecologist Dr. George Tyndall accused of inappropriate behavior »

“He is not a danger or threat to anyone,” the attorney said. “He is clearly not a flight risk. He has known about this for over a year.”

Flier said that Tyndall has serious medical problems, including a heart condition and diabetes. He said the doctor doesn’t have a passport.

The judge, however, initially said she would not reduce bail, given there were no special reasons to not assign an amount that is typical for such felonies.

Tyndall was taken into custody last week as he left his apartment in a high-rise near Lafayette Park.

Los Angeles police said he was carrying a loaded .38-caliber handgun, a concealed weapon for which they said he does not have a permit.

Flier said Tyndall is a former U.S. Customs employee and had been permitted to carry a weapon in the past. He received numerous threats last year, Flier said, after the abuse allegations against him surfaced.

The attorney said a lot that has been reported about Tyndall is inaccurate and he cannot wait for his day in court.

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“He has been really crucified,” Flier said.

The felonies laid out in a criminal filing by the district attorney’s office concern allegations by 16 women regarding incidents between 2009 and 2016, and carry a potential prison term of up to 53 years, authorities said.

The arrest was the capstone of a yearlong investigation that ballooned into the largest sex crimes inquiry involving a single suspect in LAPD history. The charges represent only a tiny fraction of the allegations made to police and prosecutors by nearly 400 women, and span just the final seven of Tyndall’s 27 years at the university.

Detectives from the elite Robbery-Homicide Division presented the district attorney’s office with evidence about alleged sexual abuse of 145 former patients for potential prosecution. Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey said last week that her office was still reviewing cases and that more charges were likely.

Those filings, she said, represent allegations that were within the 10-year statute of limitations, with evidence corroborating the women’s accounts.

Tyndall has asserted repeatedly that he did nothing wrong and his treatment of patients was consistent with good medical care. Flier said outside the courthouse Monday that there was a chaperone present during all medical examinations.

Investigators had to consult experts to understand how the gynecologist’s behavior differed from legitimate care, Lacey said.

Tyndall is charged with 18 counts of sexual penetration of an unconscious person. As explained in the filing, the charge relates not to the alleged victims’ state of wakefulness, but instead their lack of understanding of the gynecologist’s motivations, specifically that he had “no professional purpose” in touching them during pelvic exams.

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Additionally, Tyndall faces 11 counts of sexual battery by fraud for touching an “intimate part” of a patient “for the purpose of sexual arousal” and under the guise of a “professional purpose,” according to the criminal filing.

The women ranged in age from 17 to 29 at the time they saw Tyndall, police said.

The Times revealed in May 2018 that Tyndall had been the subject of numerous complaints during his tenure at USC from female students and staff. Among the accusations were that he touched women inappropriately during pelvic exams, made suggestive and lewd comments about their bodies and photographed their genitals for purposes colleagues found dubious.

He was allowed to continue treating students until 2016 when nurse Cindy Gilbert, frustrated by administrative inaction, complained to a rape crisis counselor.

Tyndall was placed on paid leave, and university lawyers and administrators reached a secret deal with him a year later under which he left USC in 2017 with a financial payout and a clean record with the medical board.

Since The Times’ report, the board has moved to strip Tyndall of his license and USC has agreed to a $215-million federal class-action settlement with former patients. More than 700 additional suits against the university are winding their way through state court.

Twelve of the Police Department’s 50 investigators worked full time on the Tyndall case for a year, authorities said. They executed half a dozen warrants, including searches of his apartment and storage unit that turned up numerous hard drives as well as images of unclothed women, police said. Police think some images found in the storage unit were taken in clinic settings and have tried to identify patients.

Their digital analysis of the hard drives is still underway, Capt. Billy Hayes said, but investigators have already reviewed about 1,000 videos he described as “homemade sex tapes” filmed in the Philippines.

Richard.Winton@latimes.com

Twitter:@LAcrimes


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