An obstetrician-gynecologist who worked for decades at the University of California, Los Angeles, was sentenced to 11 years in prison after being convicted of sexually abusing patients, his lawyer said on Thursday.
Dr. James Heaps, 66, appeared in the California Superior Court in Los Angeles County on Wednesday after jurors found him guilty in October 2022 of three counts of sexual battery by fraud and two counts of sexual penetration of an unconscious person.
Dr. Heaps, who was affiliated with the university in various roles from 1983 to 2018, did not make a statement on Wednesday after he was sentenced by Judge Michael D. Carter, according to local media organizations. His lawyer, Leonard Levine, said in a telephone interview on Thursday that prosecutors had asked for a 13-year sentence.
Dr. Heaps “would be remorseful for anything that he did that was inappropriate. But he adamantly denies any of these criminal offenses,” Mr. Levine said.
Mr. Levine said they would appeal and that Dr. Heaps, who has been in custody since his conviction, would have a hearing in May and seek to be released on bail or his own recognizance, pending the outcome of the appeal.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said in a statement that it was “grateful for the victims who bravely came forward and testified.” The district attorney’s office added that
In court, prosecutors read statements from some of the victims, who said they have suffered from extreme anxiety and no longer trusted male doctors because of the sexual abuse.
“I’m still living with a lot of anxiety. I’ve gone to some very dark places in my thoughts,” Jane T., one of the victims, wrote in a statement read by a prosecutor in court before the sentencing, The Los Angeles Times reported.
Another victim, Natalie B., wrote in a statement that “the trauma I’ve experienced words cannot explain.”
“Being a victim of sexual assault has completely altered my life,” Natalie B. wrote. “I wouldn’t wish this pain on anyone ever.”
Dr. Heaps was initially charged in 2019 and was indicted in 2021 on 21 counts of sexual misconduct involving seven women from 2009 to 2018. In October, jurors acquitted him of seven counts and could not reach a unanimous decision on nine counts, the district attorney’s office said at the time.
The district attorney’s office said on Thursday that “a decision has not been made on whether we will retry the remaining counts.”
Mr. Levine said that Wednesday’s sentence pertained to a charge of sexual battery by fraud involving one woman in 2017, and the other four charges involved a second woman, between 2013 and 2015.
Dr. Heaps had worked part-time at the university’s student health center from about 1983 to 2010. He was hired by U.C.L.A. Health, a health care system linked to the university, in 2014 and held medical staff privileges at the Ronald Reagan U.C.L.A. Medical Center from 1988 to 2018, when he was removed from clinical practice in response to allegations of sexual misconduct and had his employment terminated.
In May 2020, a U.C.L.A. special committee released a report saying it had reviewed accusations of sexual misconduct by Dr. Heaps during exams, including that he had used a painful vaginal examination technique, inappropriately touched women, unnecessarily touched a patient’s genital piercing and groped patients’ breasts during breast exams.
The case has cost U.C.L.A. about $700 million to settle the claims of sexual misconduct. They include $243 million in payments to settle the claims of 203 women who alleged sexual misconduct and a $73 million settlement made public in 2020 to resolve a class-action suit that involved more than 5,000 of Dr. Heaps’s patients since the 1980s.
The civil settlements were separate from the criminal case.
Eduardo Medina contributed reporting.