UCLA gynecologist James Heaps sentenced for sexual abuse

A disgraced UCLA gynecologist was sentenced to more than a decade behind bars this week for sexually abusing patients.

Dr. James Heaps, 66 — who was convicted last year of three counts of sexual battery by fraud and two counts of sexual penetration of two patients — was ordered Wednesday to serve 11 years in prison, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Following his release, Heaps will also be required to register as a sex offender, the outlet said.

Once one of UCLA Health’s highest-paid employees, Heaps was arrested in 2019 based on allegations from several patients that he groped them, made lewd comments, and performed needlessly invasive examinations. 

It was subsequently revealed that complaints about Heaps’ behavior previously went unaddressed until late 2017 when a formal investigation was initiated by the university’s Title IX office, the newspaper reported.

Heaps — who saw more than 6,000 patients throughout his career — was allowed to continue practicing until June 2018, when UCLA declined to renew his contract and brought the allegations to police. 

Heaps’ victims received a record-setting payout from UCLA.
Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 24: Attorney Jennifer J. McGrath, left, and Gabby speaks during a press conference at  Luxe Sunset Boulevard Hotel, on Tuesday, May 24, 2022,
Hundreds of his victims also sued UCLA for allegedly ignoring their complaints.
Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

After his arrest the following year, Heaps was charged with 21 felonies involving the sexual assaults of seven women between 2009 and 2018, CBS News said. The jury ultimately found him not guilty of seven of the counts, and deadlocked on the remaining charges.

Hundreds of his victims also sued UCLA for allegedly ignoring their complaints and stifling rumors of Heaps’ abuse at the student health center, the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, and his campus office.

The university ultimately shelled out nearly $700 million to over 300 victims.  

The courtroom where Heaps was sentenced.
Heaps will also be required to register as a sex offender.
FOX 11 Los Angeles

Heaps — who already spent more than a year in prison while awaiting trial — appeared in court Wednesday in an orange jumpsuit. He did not address the court after his sentence was read.

“Today we finally have a reason to smile. I hope that the settlement by UCLA and today’s sentencing will encourage any victims of sexual assault to come forward,” one of the plaintiffs, Ellen Carter, told the LA Times after the proceedings.

“Now the healing can begin.”

Other victims presented written statements detailing the lingering effects of Heaps’ behavior.

“I’m still living with a lot of anxiety. I’ve gone to some very dark places in my thoughts,” Jane T. told the court.

James Heaps.
Heaps saw more than 6,000 patients during his career.
FOX 11 Los Angeles

Another woman, Natalie B., recounted how Heaps’ abuse tainted the births of her children at the UCLA medical facility.

“I was proud to be a patient there,” she said in a statement read by a prosecutor. 

“It has been absolutely ruined … [Heaps] has made the place where my babies were born a traumatizing trigger.”

Heaps’ defense attorney, Tracy Brown, tried to argue that the abuse was merely a “blip” in her client’s 35-year career.

“He’s someone who has done a lot of good in his life,” she said.

Fellow defense attorney Leonard Levine told reporters outside the Burbank courthouse that Heaps would appeal the sentence.

“[Heaps] has adamantly denied any of the criminal offenses,” he reiterated.

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