Parents Blame UC Doc's Abuse for Son's Death
OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) - Parents claim in court that their son killed himself after a UC-Berkeley doctor sexually assaulted him repeatedly during health exams.
Annie and Mike Stafford sued the Regents of the University of California and Dr. Robert Kevess in a bizarre and graphic claim in Alameda County Court. Their son, Elgin, was a graduate and a former congressional intern.
The Staffords say their son sought a diagnosis for a possible sexually transmitted disease from UC-Berkeley's Health Services clinic in May 2010, and was seen by Dr. Kevess in May of 2010.
The Staffords say that although the UC system has extensive manuals devoted to the safety and care of its students, their son was never informed that he could request to have a patient attendant present during his examination by Kevess - an openly gay man.
They claim that Kevess gained the trust of their son over the course of several examinations. They say their son's medical records were "replete with confirmation that he was gay and/or bisexual," and that Kevess used the information for nefarious purposes.
"On or about May 3, 2010, decedent treated with Kevess for STD diagnosis and treatment involving intimate examinations. In addition to these physically intimate examinations, Kevess also engaged in psychologically intimate examinations including but not limited to treating decedent for depression and eating disorders," according to the complaint.
"Kevess spent a great deal of time continuously exploring decedent's family history, romantic and sexual relationships, self-esteem and body-image issues and on and on. Kevess expertly utilized the transference phenomenon to convince decedent that he could trust him," the Staffords claim.
"The trust he gained allowed him to perform wholly unnecessary and shockingly prolonged prostate exams which transitioned into acts of molestation, including purported genital and anal 'exams' and repeated STD 'genital discharge exams' during which he masturbated decedent to ejaculation under the guise of what he told decedent were normal procedures. Decedent was molested by defendant Kevess when Kevess performed unnecessary and prolonged genital and anal examinations."
The parents claim that Kevess did not limit his assaults to a single appointment.
"On May 3, 2010, Kevess performed an unnecessary, inappropriate and prolonged genital and anal examination. On May 14, 2010, Kevess performed an unnecessary and inappropriate discharge test. On June 18, 2010, Kevess performed another discharge test, prolonged digital anal penetration along with prolonged genital stimulation resulting in ejaculation. Decedent did not consent to this conduct," the complaint states.
Elgin's parents say their son - a former intern for Los Angeles-area Congresswoman and former Assembly Speaker Karen Bass - suffered psychological damage in addition to the physical abuse he suffered at the hands of Dr. Kevess.
"As a result of being repeatedly sexually violated and abused, decedent's sense of trust and wellbeing were severely undermined, he was plagued with nightmares of sexual violation, felt intense shame, humiliation and anger and suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and suicidal ideation," according to the complaint.
The Contra Costa Times reportedin April that Elgin began graduate school at USC but dropped out in January this year because of panic attacks and anxiety. The newspaper reported that Elgin left his parents' home barefoot in the early morning of March 20 after behaving erratically, and never came back.
Nine days later he was found dead at 23, floating in a waterway in Los Angeles County. The Staffords say in their complaint that Elgin killed himself "as a result of the sexual abuse and above described emotional injuries."
Elgin's parents accuse the UC Board of Regents of negligence, negligent supervision and negligent hiring and retention. They say the university knew or should have known that Kevess is a sexual predator, and did not have a system in place "to reasonably investigate, supervise and/or monitor employees, including Kevess, to prevent pre-sexual grooming and/or sexual harassment, molestation and abuse of male patients, nor did they implement a system or procedure to oversee or monitor conduct toward male patients and others in defendants' care."
"Plaintiffs are informed and believe and on that basis allege that the defendants were put on notice and should have known that Kevess had previously engaged and continued to engage in unlawful sexual conduct with male patients and other felonies for his own personal gratification, and that it was or should have been foreseeable that he was engaging or would engage in illicit sexual activities with decedent and others under the cloak of this authority, confidence and trust bestowed upon him through defendant Regents," the complaint states.
The parents claim the school system knew that Kevess molested patients both before and during his employment at Berkeley.
"Plaintiffs are informed and thereon allege that other third parties, law enforcement officials and/or other molestation victims of Kevess informed defendants of inappropriate conduct and molestations committed by Kevess," the complaint states. It claims the university "did nothing to investigate, supervise or monitor Kevess" to ensure their son's safety.
They seek damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress, sexual battery, assault, gender violence and other charges.
According to a July 2 reportin the San Jose Mercury News, Elgin was not Kevess's only alleged victim. Kevess resigned from UC Berkeley in April 2011 after another student reported similarly abuses to the University Health Services director, the newspaper reported.
According to the Mercury News, Kevess, 53, was arrested and charged with 19 felony counts, including sexual exploitation of multiple patients, sexual battery with false professional purpose and four counts of sexual penetration with a foreign object.
He agreed to have his medical license suspended pending the outcome of his trial and is free on $745,000 bail. He will appear at a pre-trial hearing on July 27, according to the Mercury News.
The Staffords say Kevess destroyed their son and marred his last days on earth.
"As a result of the above-described conduct, decedent had suffered great pain of mind and body, shock, emotional distress, physical manifestations of emotional distress, embarrassment, loss of self-esteem, disgrace, humiliation and loss of enjoyment of life; had suffered and was prevented from performing daily activities and obtaining full enjoyment of life; had sustained loss of earnings and earning capacity, and/or had incurred expenses for medical and psychological treatment, therapy and counseling," Elgin's parents say in their complaint.
The Staffords are represented by Jonathan Weber and Andrew Treger, with Weber and Baer, of Los Angeles.