BURBANK (CNS) - Sentencing is set Wednesday for a former UCLA campus gynecologist who was convicted of sex-related charges involving two patients.
Superior Court Judge Michael Carter is expected to first consider the defense's motion for a new trial for Dr. James Mason Heaps.
Heaps, 66, has been behind bars since he was convicted last Oct. 20 by a downtown Los Angeles jury on three counts of sexual battery by fraud and two counts of sexual penetration of an unconscious person. Those charges involved two patients, with jurors finding that those victims were particularly vulnerable and that Heaps had abused a position of trust.
Those charges carry a potential sentence of more than 20 years in state prison.
Heaps was acquitted of three counts each of sexual penetration of an unconscious person and sexual battery by fraud, and one count of sexual exploitation of a patient -- with those charges involving two other patients.
The judge declared a mistrial on the remaining nine counts -- three counts of sexual battery by fraud, four counts of sexual penetration of an unconscious person and two counts of sexual exploitation of a patient.
Heaps was indicted in May 2021 on charges involving the seven female patients.
At a hearing in February, the judge rejected a defense bid to release Heaps on bail while he was awaiting sentencing.
The judge rejected the defense's argument that Heaps does not present a flight risk and intended to show up for his sentencing at the Burbank courthouse, where Carter was transferred after the trial.
"He intends to be here," one of his attorneys, Tracy Green, said then of Heaps. "... He isn't going anywhere. ... He's not the type of person to run away from his problems."
The defense lawyer assured the judge then that Heaps intended to surrender his medical license -- an action he subsequently took in March -- and said her client would submit to home arrest and GPS monitoring. She also argued that Heaps suffers from various medical issues for which he cannot receive adequate treatment in jail.
Deputy District Attorney Danette Meyers countered that Heaps' conduct "was severe and it was substantial," saying he had a great impetus to flee.
"If I was sitting in the defendant's shoes, I wouldn't come back," Meyers said.
The prosecutor called arguments about Heaps' medical conditions "just a ploy as I see it to get the defendant out."
The judge said at the hearing in February that he still found Heaps "to be a danger to the community," adding that he did not find any dramatic change of circumstances since October to warrant granting him bail.
Heaps -- who was ordered in 2019 to "cease and desist from the practice of medicine as a condition of bail" after he was first charged that year -- served as a gynecologist/oncologist, affiliated with UCLA, for nearly 35 years. At various times, he saw patients at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and at his office at 100 Medical Plaza.
At one time, he was reportedly the highest paid physician in the UC system and had treated about 6,000 patients, attorneys said.
More than 500 lawsuits were filed against Heaps and UCLA, accusing the school of failing to protect patients after becoming aware of the misconduct.
Last May, attorneys for 312 former patients of Heaps announced the $374 million settlement of abuse lawsuits against the University of California.
The settlement came on top of a $243.6 million resolution of lawsuits involving about 200 patients announced in February 2022, and a $73 million settlement of federal lawsuits previously reached involving roughly 5,500 plaintiffs.
The lawsuits alleged that UCLA actively and deliberately concealed Heaps' sexual abuse of patients. UCLA continued to allow Heaps to have unfettered sexual access to female patients -- many of whom were cancer patients -- at the university, plaintiffs' attorneys alleged in the lawsuits.
UCLA issued a statement last May saying, "This agreement, combined with earlier settlements involving other plaintiffs, resolves the vast majority of the claims alleging sexual misconduct by James Heaps, a former UCLA Health physician.
"The conduct alleged to have been committed by Heaps is reprehensible and contrary to our values. We are grateful to all those who came forward, and hope this settlement is one step toward providing some level of healing for the plaintiffs involved.
"We are dedicated to providing the highest quality care that respects the dignity of every patient. We are taking all necessary steps to ensure our patients' well-being in order to maintain the public's confidence and trust," the statement continued.