James Heaps worked at UCLA for over three decades until he retired amid an internal misconduct investigation last year. Yesterday, he appeared in court on charges of sexual battery by fraud and sexual exploitation of a medical patient, charges related to two patients he saw in 2017 and 2018.
The A.P. reports that Heaps filed a plea of not guilty on all charges, and was released without bail. The two women involved in the criminal charges were not UCLA students at the time of the alleged misconduct, but did see Heaps at his UCLA Health clinic.
In addition to the sexual misconduct allegations, Heaps was the subject of an investigation looking into suspected billing irregularities. Few details of that investigation have been released, but it is known that Heaps was among the top-paid employees in the University of California system. In 2016, he was paid $1.18 million, ranking in the 30 highest U.C. salaries.
While his retirement was technically voluntarily, UCLA has stated it had already removed him from practice at the time due to the internal investigation, and had informed him it would formally terminate his employment. It was university officials who reported Heaps to the medical board and local law enforcement.
According to an official UCLA statement, the university has partnered with an outside firm to conduct an independent review of how sexual misconduct reports in clinical settings are handled.
“The review is examining UCLA’s response to such conduct and whether our policies and procedures to prevent, identify and address sexual misconduct are consistent with best practices and reflect the high standard of patient care we demand of ourselves,” the statement reads. “Based on the findings of the review, we will identify and implement necessary changes across all of UCLA’s clinical sites.”
This is not the first time that a campus doctor has been accused of sexual misconduct. USC gynecologist George Tyndall has faced numerous allegations of inappropriate behavior, though has not seen criminal charges. Another USC doctor, men’s health specialist Dennis Kelly, is currently being sued by 50 men who accuse him of sexual misconduct while they were students.
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