By TERRI VERMEULEN KEITH
LOS ANGELES — A former longtime USC campus gynecologist pleaded not guilty Friday to sex-related charges involving 16 patients.
The hearing for George Tyndall came two weeks after Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler found sufficient evidence to require the 76-year-old defendant to stand trial on 18 felony counts of sexual penetration of an unconscious person — charges that allege the women were “unconscious of the nature of the act” and that it served “no professional purpose” — along with nine felony counts of sexual battery by fraud.
The criminal complaint alleges that the crimes occurred between 2009 and 2016.
The women had gone to USC’s student health center for annual examinations or other treatment while Tyndall was working there.
Eight charges involving five other women were dismissed earlier because four of them opted not to proceed and one could not be contacted.
One of Tyndall’s attorneys, Andrew Flier, told reporters that the defense will be asking the judge at a Sept. 15 hearing to lower Tyndall’s $1.3 million bail to $250,000 and to free him from electronic monitoring, given the dismissal of eight charges involving the five other women.
“There’s a lot of burden with respect to this and he’s not a threat to anyone and he’s not practicing medicine,” the defense lawyer said. “Literally the doctor has been a prisoner within his own house and we don’t think that’s fair, especially at this part of the proceedings.”
He added that his client has been “adamant from Day 1 that he did not do these alleged crimes.”
One of the alleged victims asked the judge to “expedite the process as much as possible.”
“We’ve been waiting a long time to see justice,” she said, noting that it has been five years since a Los Angeles Times article was published about Tyndall.
She told reporters outside court that she wants the other alleged victims to know that “our day will come, justice will come. We will see Tyndall tried and accounted for. He will go to court and he will go to jail.”
At the end of a hearing to determine whether Tyndall should stand trial on the charges, Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller told the judge Aug. 11 that Tyndall was employed at a prestigious university and that the patients — often as young as 18, 19 or 20 — “trust in this guy” and “believe what he is doing is appropriate.”
“That’s how he gets away with this … In their mind, they think what’s being done is correct,” the prosecutor said, adding that Tyndall’s patients were “unable to resist” because they were not aware of the nature of what Tyndall was doing.
One of Tyndall’s attorneys, Leonard Levine, countered that many patients were not comfortable with the way Tyndall spoke to them, but said he believed their perception of Tyndall changed to the acts being viewed as “sexual in nature” rather than a standard gynecological examination after a Los Angeles Times article about alleged wrongdoing by the former campus gynecologist.
The defense lawyer told the judge that he believed the investigation into the alleged crimes was “totally lacking,” saying that the defense maintains that the examinations were done for a legitimate medical purpose.
One of the alleged victims, identified in court only as Jane Doe 14, testified when the hearing began in November 2021 that she was “embarrassed and horrified that this was happening,” referring to her first examination by Tyndall in August 2014.
“I was telling myself, ‘You’re just being sensitive,” she testified. “He’s a professional, he’s not going to be doing anything weird.”‘
The woman told the judge that she made it to the center’s lobby before she started to cry and that it “felt wrong,” but she was convinced it couldn’t be wrong because Tyndall was a medical professional.
She said she had to make a return visit in June 2015 because she needed to renew her prescription for birth control and Tyndall told her she needed a pelvic examination and a “well-woman” checkup that included a breast exam and a skin exam, during which he told her she had “beautiful, creamy skin.”
“I think I made it home before crying,” she said of that visit with Tyndall, which she described as “worse” than the first appointment.
The woman — who said she had abnormal pap smear results — testified that she declined a pelvic examination during a December 2015 appointment with Tyndall because she felt it was “unnecessary to have one so quickly after the last.”
She said she didn’t recall the doctor ever wearing gloves during the examinations and reported what had happened to her after reading a Los Angeles Times article about Tyndall in the spring of 2018, saying it was like a “checklist down the line of things I’d also experienced.”
Another alleged victim, who was 20 at the time in 2016, described staring at the ceiling as Tyndall examined her without a chaperone and asked if she played any sports.
“I felt uncomfortable,” said the woman, who was identified in court only as Jane Doe 16. “It was really unpleasant.”
She said that she also came forward after reading the newspaper article about Tyndall.
“I don’t think I could sleep at night if I wasn’t saying something,” said the woman, who is now herself an obstetrician-gynecologist.
One of the women testified that she will receive a $1.2 million civil settlement, while the other said she expected to get about $1.6 million before her attorney’s cut of the settlement.
Another former patient — who said she received a $1.5 million settlement — testified in December 2021 that Tyndall told her that he took photographs of her for “medical research” during an October 2012 examination and did not ask for her consent. She said that there was not a chaperone in the room when the photos were taken and that she felt uncomfortable with Tyndall, whom she described as “staring at me.”
“I felt violated, but then I also was questioning myself because it was my first pap smear,” she said of her first visit at age 18 to a gynecologist to discuss birth control.
She noted that she expressed her concern afterward about the exam to a nurse whom she said was “dismissive and immediately reassured me that everything was normal,” and said she subsequently sent an email to someone at the student health center because she was concerned about the “inappropriate, unprofessional discussions” he had with her, including his remarks about Asian women.
“I felt it was wrong. I felt it was something I needed to report,” she testified, noting that she didn’t believe she ever received a response to her message.
In March 2021, attorneys representing hundreds of women who claim they were sexually abused by Tyndall announced an $852 million settlement of lawsuits against the university, describing the resolution as the largest of its type ever against a university.
In January 2020, a federal judge in Los Angeles granted final approval of a $215 million class-action settlement between USC and some of the women who claim they were sexually abused by Tyndall.
The settlement provides all class members — about 17,000 former patients who received women’s health services from Tyndall — compensation of $2,500 and up. Patients who are willing to provide further details about their experience could be eligible for additional compensation up to $250,000.
Attorneys for some victims have argued that following an internal investigation of complaints against Tyndall in 2016, the university paid Tyndall a substantial financial settlement so he would quietly resign.
USC officials had repeatedly denied allegations of a cover-up relating to Tyndall and have said that in response to the scandal, new protocols were implemented at its student health center to ensure any complaints are investigated and resolved by appropriate university officials and authorities. The university also said it has hired female, board-certified physicians and introduced patient education materials about sensitive examinations.
After the March 2021 settlement, USC President Carol Folt released a statement in which she said, “I am deeply sorry for the pain experienced by these valued members of the USC community. We appreciate the courage of all who came forward and hope this much-needed resolution provides some relief to the women abused by George Tyndall.”
Tyndall surrendered his medical license in September 2019, according to records from the Medical Board of California.
Meanwhile, former UCLA campus gynecologist James Heaps was sentenced to 11 years in state prison for his conviction on sex-related charges involving two patients.
Jurors acquitted Heaps of charges involving two other patients. Prosecutors are expected to announce Monday whether they want to retry nine remaining counts against Heaps on which jurors deadlocked in October 2022.
Source: Orange County Register