BURBANK (CNS) - Prosecutors announced Monday that they want to retry a former UCLA campus gynecologist -- who has already been sentenced to 11 years in state prison -- on nine remaining sex-related charges on which jurors deadlocked last year involving former patients.
James Mason Heaps' attorney, Tracy Green, objected to the request by the District Attorney's Office for a retrial and asked Superior Court Judge Michael Carter to dismiss the remaining counts in the interests of justice.
The judge instructed attorneys to file briefs on the issue, with an Oct. 25 hearing set in the Burbank courtroom.
Heaps, 66, was found guilty last Oct. 20 of charges involving two women -- three counts of sexual battery by fraud and two counts of sexual penetration of an unconscious person. Jurors acquitted him of charges involving two other patients, and deadlocked on the other nine counts that involve four alleged victims, including one of the women named in a count on which he was convicted.
Deputy District Attorney Danette Meyers told the judge that the office's chief deputy advised her last week that the prosecution would be going forward with a retrial if the court agrees. She told the judge that she and colleague Rosa Zavala "may decide not to proceed on one or two of them, but definitely on the ones that hung 9-3 for guilt."
"I know that there were maybe one or two that hung a different way and so we're looking at that," the prosecutor told the judge. "But, as of today, we are proceeding ... with the court's permission, of course, (on) all of the hung counts."
Just before sentencing Heaps to 11 years in state prison in April, the judge noted that he had received at least 75 character letters on the defendant's behalf, and said that Heaps was "by all accounts a world-renowned gynecologist specializing in oncology." He said the letters sent on behalf of Heaps were filled with stories about him saving the lives of his patients.
"But this reputation also serves as an aggravating factor because it caused the victims in this case to entrust their bodies and lives to him," the judge said. "It was because of this reputation that he was able to take advantage of the vulnerable position that these victims were in."
The judge subsequently rejected the defense's bid to release Heaps on bail while he appeals his conviction. The judge said at a hearing in May that he found "by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant is a flight risk."
Heaps was indicted in May 2021 on charges involving the seven female patients. He surrendered his medical license in March.
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 a $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.
Meanwhile, a former longtime USC campus gynecologist, George Tyndall, is awaiting trial in downtown Los Angeles on sex-related charges involving 16 patients.
Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler found sufficient evidence earlier this month to allow the case against Tyndall, 76, to proceed to trial on 18 felony counts of sexual penetration of an unconscious person and nine felony counts of sexual battery by fraud.