Jury begins hearing case against former UCLA gynecologist accused of sexual abuse

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Wednesday, August 10, 2022
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A former UCLA campus gynecologist sexually abused seven female patients who had trusted him and the university, a prosecutor told jurors during the opening statement.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- In a downtown Los Angeles courtroom Tuesday, a jury of nine men and nine women heard the first few words of Dr. James Heaps' criminal case.

The former UCLA gynecologist faces 21 counts of sexual abuse offenses, criminally accused of sexually assaulting seven women. If convicted of all charges, he could get more than 67 years in prison.

The faces of the women and some of their stories were shown in court during prosecutor Danette Meyers' opening statements. Meyers went through each of their various medical needs, and what they say Heaps did to -- as they plan to testify -- violate them.

"They trusted the university. They trusted the defendant," the prosecutor said of the alleged victims, whom she said either had emergency medical situations that needed to be dealt with or were dealing with cancer or potential cancer.

RELATED: Jury selection begins in sex abuse trial for former UCLA gynecologist

The allegations range from breast exams for abdominal pain, to the doctor using his fingers in a way that felt inappropriate. The appointments in question happened between 2009 and 2018.

It was not until late 2017 that the allegations were reported in a way that led to the eventual criminal case.

Prosecutors see that as a fault of the system, saying the women did report him to people prior to that.

The defense sees the time discrepancy as questionable.

Defense attorney Leonard Levine countered that his client performed the examinations for a "legitimate medical purpose" and that he was accompanied by trained medical assistants acting as chaperones who were present in the examination rooms.

"They went to him for a purpose," Levine said. "The purpose was to examine them and to treat them. Find out if they had cancer and if they did, get it out. And he did."

With regards to the women feeling uncomfortable, Levine suggests some actions are part of the nature of the job.

"The more thoroughly he does his job, which he did, the better chance of finding whether cancer was there, and treating it," Levine said.

The trial continues Wednesday with its first witness, an alleged victim set to testify against Heaps.

City News Service contributed to this report.