The Los Angeles County District Attorney announced that jurors convicted James Mason Heaps M.D., who is now 65, and an obstetrician-gynecologist formerly employed by the University of California, Los Angeles, on five counts in connection with the sexual assaults of some of his patients.
The charges he faced stem from alleged crimes between 2009 and 2018 involving seven of Heaps’ former patients.
Jurors found Heaps guilty of three counts of sexual battery by fraud and two counts of sexual penetration of an unconscious person. He was acquitted 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. Jurors could not reach a unanimous verdict on three counts of sexual battery by fraud, four counts of sexual penetration of an unconscious person and two counts of sexual exploitation of a patient.
At this time, no decision has been made on whether or not to retry the hung counts.
A sentencing hearing was set for November 17 in Department 108 of the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center.
Heaps served as a gynecologist/oncologist, affiliated with UCLA, for nearly 35 years. At various times, he saw patients at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and at his office at 100 Medical Plaza. At one time, Heaps was reportedly the highest paid physician in the UC system and had treated about 6,000 patients, attorneys said.
More than 500 lawsuits were filed against Heaps and UCLA, accusing the school of failing to protect patients after becoming aware of the misconduct.
In May, attorneys for 312 former patients of Heaps announced a $374 million settlement of abuse lawsuits against the University of California. The settlement came on top of a $243.6 million resolution of lawsuits involving about 200 patients announced in February, and a $73 million settlement of federal lawsuits reached last year involving roughly 5,500 plaintiffs.
The lawsuits alleged that UCLA actively and deliberately concealed Heaps’ sexual abuse of patients. UCLA continued to allow Heaps to have unfettered sexual access to female patients – many of whom were cancer patients – at the university, plaintiffs’ attorneys alleged in the suits.
UCLA issued a statement in May saying, “This agreement, combined with earlier settlements involving other plaintiffs, resolves the vast majority of the claims alleging sexual misconduct by James Heaps, a former UCLA Health physician. The conduct alleged to have been committed by Heaps is reprehensible and contrary to our values. We are grateful to all those who came forward, and hope this settlement is one step toward providing some level of healing for the plaintiffs involved.
Settlement of the federal case last year required UCLA to ensure stronger oversight procedures for identification, prevention and reporting of sexual misconduct.
In March 2021 in a similar case, USC agreed to pay more than $1.1 billion to about 17,000 former patients of ex-campus gynecologist George Tyndall, the largest sex abuse payout in higher education history.
74 year old Tyndall – the only full-time gynecologist at the student health clinic from 1989 until 2016 – has pleaded not guilty to 35 criminal counts of alleged sexual misconduct between 2009 and 2016 at the university’s student health center. He has pleaded not guilty and is free on bond.
Hundreds of women came forward to report their allegations to police but some of the cases fell outside the 10-year statute of limitations, while others did not rise to the level of criminal charges or lacked sufficient evidence to prosecute. Still, he faces up to 64 years in prison if convicted.
Several victims called for criminal charges to be filed against USC administrators who knew of the allegations against Tyndall for decades and did not fire him.