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Former UCLA gynecologist found guilty of sexually assaulting patients

James Heaps was found guilty on five of the 21 charges he faced at a trial that lasted over two months.

LOS ANGELES (CN) — A former UCLA gynecologist was found guilty of sexually assaulting his patients though the jury in downtown Los Angeles either couldn't reach an unanimous verdict or acquitted him on the majority of the charges he faced.

James Heaps, 65, was found guilty of three counts of sexual battery by fraud and two counts of sexual penetration of an unconscious person, LA County District Attorney George Gascón announced late Thursday.

The jurors acquitted him 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, according to Gascón's statement. The jury was hung on three further counts of sexual battery by fraud, four counts of sexual penetration of an unconscious person and two counts of sexual exploitation of a patient.

"I thank the jurors for their service during this lengthy trial and for bringing some measure of accountability to Dr. Heaps," the DA said. "While we respect the jurors’ decisions on the acquitted counts, we are obviously disappointed. I know how challenging such trials can be for all involved and the personal sacrifices that are made so that justice is served.”

Heaps lawyer didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on the verdict.

Heaps was once among the highest-paid physicians in the UC system, having treated thousands of patients during his 35 years at UCLA. The university has paid out nearly $700 million to settle civil claims made by hundreds of women who accused Heaps of sexual assaulting them during medical examinations, and of scheduling unnecessary appointments and procedures for financial gain.

That sum is believed to be the largest payout by a public university over sexual abuse accusations — more than the University of Michigan paid to settle claims of abuse by physician Larry Nassar, though considerably less than the $1.1 billion paid out by the private University of Southern California to settle claims of abuse by its gynecologist George Tyndall.

Leonard Levine, Heaps' defense attorney, told the jury at the start of the trial in August that his client's case would rest on two types of evidence: medical records showing that every examination performed by Heaps was medically necessary, as well as testimony from medical assistants, or chaperones, who will say they were in the room when the alleged abuse occurred.

"The medical records will show that every examination had a medical purpose, and the chaperones will testify they saw no acts of sexual gratification," Levine said. "No one was masturbating, no one had an erection. Had they seen that, they would have reported it."

No decision has been made yet on whether to seek a new trial on the counts for which Heaps was acquitted, Gascón said.

Sentencing is set for Nov. 17.

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