A former UCLA obstetrician-gynecologist who worked for the university for decades has been found guilty of sexually assaulting patients in his care, prosecutors announced Thursday.
James Heaps, 65, was convicted of three counts of sexual battery by fraud and two counts of sexual penetration of an unconscious person, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office said in a release.
His arrest in 2019 on sexual abuse charges brought forward hundreds of other accusers and a flood of cases against University of California system which have cost the entity hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements.
Heaps was indicted last year on 21 counts of various forms of sexual abuse, which included sexual battery by fraud, sexual penetration of an unconscious person and sexual exploitation of a patient, the district attorney’s office said.
A jury acquitted the former doctor of seven of those charges but was unable to reach a unanimous decision on the remaining nine counts, the release said. No decision has been made on whether the hung counts will be retried.
Heaps will stay in custody until sentencing, his attorney Leonard Levin said. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for November 17, according to the district attorney’s office.
Heaps’ attorneys plan to request a new trial, Levin said.
The misconduct alleged in the indictment took place from 2009 to 2018, according to the district attorney’s office. Heaps worked part-time at the UCLA student health center from around 1983 to 2010 and was hired by UCLA Health in 2014.
Nicole Gumpert, one of the victims in the case, said that while she’s disappointed about the mixed verdict, coming forward was important for her “psychological, emotional and spiritual health and well-being.”
“I’m here to put a face and voice to Dr. Heaps’ horrific abuse and to tell you survivors, don’t let anything stop you from coming forward just because our road has been long and arduous,” Gumpert said at a press conference after the verdict.
Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón also expressed dissatisfaction that Heaps was not found guilty of all counts.
“The trauma Dr. Heaps inflicted on the very people he had sworn to care for is immeasurable.” Gascón said.
The district attorney’s office may appeal the verdict if they do not believe Heaps’ prison sentence is long enough, said Danette Meyers, an assistant head deputy in the DA’s office. Heaps is facing between 21 and 28 years in prison, she said.
UCLA Health said in a statement Thursday that they are grateful for the patients that came forward.
“Sexual misconduct of any kind is reprehensible and intolerable,” the statement said. “Our overriding priority is providing the highest quality care while ensuring that patients feel safe, protected and respected.”
The University of California system has reached multi-million dollar settlements in civil cases filed against Heaps by his accusers, including a $243.6 settlement with more than two hundred people in February.
The university system also negotiated a separate $73 million settlement in November 2020. The agreement requires UCLA to create a fund to pay as many as 6,600 alleged victims participating in the class action lawsuit filed by seven women.
Under the agreement, his accusers could receive a base payment of $2,500 “to compensate them for the common injury each suffered when UCLA exposed them to an OB/GYN with a disturbing history of alleged sexual misconduct.” The payments can reach $250,000 or higher depending on the information provided to court officials.