Former UCLA gynecologist found guilty on 5 counts of sex abuse

By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – An obstetrician-gynecologist formerly employed by the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) was found guilty on Thursday of five felony counts of sexually abusing patients, but jurors acquitted him of seven counts and deadlocked on nine others.

The mixed verdict in the sexual abuse trial of Dr. James Heaps, 65, who retired in 2018 after more than 30 years at UCLA, was announced in a statement by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

Sentencing was set for Nov. 17. A prosecutor said Heaps faces more than two decades in state prison and must register as a sex offender, according to the Los Angeles City News Service (CNS).

Judge Michael Carter declared a mistrial on the nine counts for which jurors were unable to reach a unanimous verdict. The D.A.’s office said it had yet to reach a decision on whether to refile those counts.

Heaps, who has denied wrongdoing, was tried on a total of 21 counts stemming from accusations of sexual abuse against seven women from 2009 to 2018.

The Los Angeles County Superior Court jury convicted him of three counts of sexual battery by fraud and two counts of sexual penetration of an unconscious person. He was found not guilty on three counts of sexual battery by fraud, three counts of sexual penetration of an unconscious person and one count of sexual exploitation of a patient.

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The trial came to a close months after UCLA reached back-to-back agreements earlier this year to pay a total of $600 million to settle two sex abuse civil lawsuits brought on behalf of more than 500 former patients of Heaps.

A third civil case, a class-action suit in federal court, was settled by the university for $73 million last year.

Those three settlements together fall short of the record $852 million that the University of Southern California, a private institution, agreed to pay in a case involving more than 700 women who said they were sexually abused by an ex-USC gynecologist, Dr. George Tyndall.

A separate $215 million settlement of a federal class-action case stemming from Tyndall and a $50 million cluster of individual state court settlements brought the entire USC payout over the Tyndall scandal to $1.1 billion.

(By Steve Gorman; editing by Richard Pullin)