UCLA gynecologist who abused patients gets his sentence
Los Angeles, California - Disgraced ex-UCLA gynecologist James Heaps was sentenced to 11 years in prison Tuesday, nearly two years after he was indicted for sexually abusing his patients while working at the university.
In October, a jury found him guilty of three counts of sexual battery by fraud and two counts of sexual penetration of two patients.
While he was charged with 21 felony counts, Heaps was found not guilty of seven other counts, including one of sexual exploitation. A mistrial on nine sex-related counts was declared due to a deadlocked jury.
Jurors found that Heaps' victims were particularly vulnerable and that he abused a position of trust as their doctor.
The assaults date from 2013 to 2017, the portion of his tenure that falls within the statute of limitations for which criminal charges could be brought.
The University of California system has agreed to pay nearly $700 million to settle lawsuits brought by hundreds of Heaps' alleged victims.
Victims of Heaps' abuse speak out
Victims said in written statements they still suffer extreme anxiety and no longer trust male doctors because of the sexual abuse by Heaps.
"I'm still living with a lot of anxiety. I've gone to some very dark places in my thoughts," Jane T. said in a written statement that was read in court before the sentencing.
Natalie B., one of the women Heaps was found guilty of abusing, said she gave birth to three daughters at the UCLA medical facility where Heaps worked.
"I was proud to be a patient there," Natalie B. said in a statement read in court by a prosecutor. "It has been absolutely ruined. ... The defendant has made the place where my babies were born a traumatizing trigger."
After he serves his sentence, Heaps will be required to register as a sex offender. He has already served more than a year in jail awaiting trial.
UCLA in the spotlight for late action
Despite years of complaints about Heaps, who treated about 6,000 patients during his tenure, it was not until late 2017 that allegations of sexual misconduct were reported to UCLA's Title IX office and a formal investigation was opened.
Heaps was allowed to continue seeing patients – both during the investigation and after UCLA informed the doctor his contract would not be renewed when it expired on June 30, 2018.
UCLA finally ended Heaps' employment and notified the police of the allegations against him in June 2018.
Cover photo: IMAGO / YAY Images