A disgraced UCLA doctor was sentenced to more than a decade in prison 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.
Heaps will be compelled to register as a sex offender after his release, according to the site.
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 later uncovered that accusations about Heaps’ behavior had previously gone unresolved until late 2017, when an official investigation was launched by the university’s Title IX office, according to the newspaper.
Heaps, who saw over 6,000 patients in his tenure, was allowed to continue working until June 2018, when UCLA refused to renew his contract and reported the charges to authorities.
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 disregarding their concerns and concealing reports 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.
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.
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.