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Ex-UCLA gynecologist James Heaps found guilty of sex abuse

A former gynecologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, was found guilty on five counts in a sexual abuse case Thursday in a Los Angeles court. The jury found Dr. James Heaps not guilty on seven of the 21 counts, and were deadlocked on the remaining charges.

Heaps, a longtime campus gynecologist at UCLA, had pleaded not guilty to 21 felony counts in the sexual assaults of seven women between 2009 and 2018. He has denied wrongdoing.

Heaps was indicted last year on multiple counts each of sexual battery by fraud, sexual exploitation of a patient and sexual penetration of an unconscious person by fraudulent representation.

UCLA has agreed to pay nearly $700 million in lawsuit settlements to hundreds of Heaps' patients, who said he groped them, made suggestive comments or conducted unnecessarily invasive exams during his 35-year career.

Women who brought the lawsuits said the university ignored their complaints and deliberately concealed abuse that happened for decades during examinations at the UCLA student health center, the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center or in Heaps' campus office.

UCLA acknowledged it received a sex abuse complaint against Heaps from a patient in December 2017 and it launched an investigation the following month that concluded she was sexually assaulted and harassed, attorneys said.

Heaps, however, continued to practice until his retirement in June 2018 amid the scandal. The university did not release its findings in the investigation until November 2019 — months after Heaps was arrested.

Heaps' attorney and UCLA did not immediately return requests for comment Thursday.

The verdict comes as the former campus gynecologist for the University of Southern California awaits trial on charges of sexual misconduct. USC last year agreed to pay more than $1 billion to settle lawsuits from hundreds of former patients of ex-campus gynecologist George Tyndall, the largest sex abuse payout in higher education history. Tyndall served as the only full-time gynecologist at USC's student health clinic for three decades until his departure in 2016. He has pleaded not guilty to dozens of sexual assault charges.

That scandal prompted then-USC president Max Nikias to resign in May of 2018. 

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