Ex-UCLA gynecologist now facing 20 felony charges for allegedly sexually assaulting 7 patients

Dr. James Mason Heaps, 63, of Woodland Hills, initially faced charges involving two alleged victims.
WESTWOOD, LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- An obstetrician-gynecologist formerly employed by UCLA now faces a total of 20 felony counts charging him with sexually assaulting seven patients between 2011 and 2018, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office announced Monday.

Dr. James Mason Heaps, 63, of Woodland Hills, initially faced charges involving two alleged victims.

He pleaded not guilty to the newly filed charges Monday and was taken into custody and ordered to return to court on Sept. 15, when a date is expected to be set for a preliminary hearing. Bail was set at $650,000, according to the District Attorney's Office.

Heaps was charged last year with two counts of sexual battery by fraud and one count of sexual exploitation of patients, to which he also pleaded not guilty. The criminal complaint was amended to add eight additional counts of sexual battery by fraud, two additional counts of sexual exploitation of a patient and seven counts of sexual penetration of a person unconscious of the nature of the act by fraudulent representation.

If convicted as charged, Heaps faces a possible maximum sentence of more than 67 years in prison.

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The university previously confirmed that Heaps worked part-time from 1983 to 2010 at UCLA's student health center before being hired in 2014 by UCLA Health and held medical staff privileges at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center from 1988 to 2018.

Heaps is also facing multiple civil lawsuits by women who allege that he repeatedly sexually assaulted them under the guise of performing legitimate medical treatments.

Two separate lawsuits were filed in Los Angeles Superior Court last July, the first on behalf of three women who were UCLA students at the time of the alleged assaults and the other on behalf of six women who were non-student patients at UCLA Medical Center.

The women allege that Heaps abused them by groping and fondling their breasts and inappropriately touching their private parts while ostensibly conducting examinations during visits spanning the years 1989 to 2017.

An earlier lawsuit filed against Heaps and the University of California Board of Regents by a then-44-year-old cancer patient alleged that during four visits ending in June 2017, Heaps abused his position of trust to improperly touch the unnamed plaintiff's genitals, fondle her breasts and squeeze her nipples under the guise of a medical examination.

The lawsuit further alleged that a UCLA nurse did nothing while in the examination room with Heaps and the woman during one visit while he abused the plaintiff. Instead of monitoring Heaps, the nurse walked to a computer and sat with her back turned to the doctor, according to the complaint, which says Heaps was allowed to quietly resign'' in 2018 after an internal investigation found he had violated the Regents' sexual misconduct policy.

Attorneys for the plaintiff said when announcing the lawsuit that at least 22 other women had stepped forward with allegation against Heaps.

Her lawyer alleged that UCLA received complaints about Heaps' alleged misconduct before she became his patient, yet nothing was done and he was allowed to continue practicing medicine throughout the two years he allegedly abused her.

"All sexual abuse is horrific, but taking advantage of a cancer patient who literally places her life in her doctor's hands is ghoulish,'' plaintiff's attorney John Manly said when the first suit was announced.

After the criminal case was filed against Heaps in June 2019, UCLA issued a statement from Chancellor Gene Block and Vice Chancellor John Mazziotta citing a profound sense of sadness'' about the distressing information.''

The statement said that in response to allegations of sexual misconduct against Dr. Heaps, UCLA investigated his conduct, removed him from clinical practice, informed him that his employment was being terminated (after which he announced he was retiring) and reported him to the Medical Board of California and law enforcement.''

UCLA also said it initiated a review in March 2019 of the university's response to sexual misconduct in clinical settings and set up a phone number for women to report alleged misconduct by Heaps.

In 2019, the UC Board of Regents paid $2.25 million to a woman who alleged that Heaps sexually assaulted her while he was practicing at UCLA and another $1.3 million to a UCLA nurse-practitioner who alleged sexual harassment and retaliation for her participation in UCLA internal investigations of Heaps.
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