A former UCLA campus gynecologist convicted of sex-related charges has been sentenced to 11 years in prison and must register as a sex offender.
James Heaps worked as a gynecologist and oncologist at UCLA for 35 years and, at one point, was the highest paid doctor in the UC system.
He was charged with 21 counts of sexually assaulting his patients.
Heaps sat in a Burbank courtroom Wednesday with his head bowed as he was sentenced to 11 years in state prison on five counts of sexual assault.
“For four years we have been fighting and today we finally have a reason to smile,” victim Ellen Cater said.
In October, the former UCLA gynecologist was convicted of three counts of sexual assault by fraud and two counts of sexual penetration of an unconscious person.
The Los Angeles jury found Dr. James Heaps, a UCLA campus gynecologist, not guilty on seven of 21 counts and was barred from the other counts.
After the verdict, Heaps’ attorney filed a motion for a new trial, but the judge denied the motion on Wednesday and continued with sentencing instead.
“We are victims at the hands of a doctor and an institution in which we trust. Hopefully this verdict can allow other victims to come forward,” said victim Melanie Padilla.
“It’s been one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do is talk about such personal things,” victim Nicole Gumpert said.
Several victims expressed their gratitude to those who worked on the case.
Jennifer McGrath, who represented three of the victims, had a message for institutions across the country.
“Please pay attention to this day. Remember this day and protect patients. Take necessary measures to protect patients,” he said.
Assistant District Attorneys Danette Meyers and Rosa Zavala said they believe the sentence was fair and the Heaps should serve at least 85% of their sentence.
“Throughout this trial, all of these women had a lot of courage to come forward,” Zavala said.
Heaps’ defense attorney, Leonard Levine, maintains his client’s innocence and says he looks forward to the appeal process.
“He was found guilty on five of the 21 counts. That’s five too many. I take responsibility for it. I think he should have been found not guilty on all 21 counts and we’re not going to be happy until that happens,” Levine said. “It’s not been over for a long time.”
After facing more than 500 lawsuits from hundreds of patients, UCLA has paid nearly $700 million in settlements.
In October, a judge declared a mistrial on nine of 21 sexual assault charges, and the prosecutor did not say whether he planned to refile those charges.