West Virginia doctor indicted in patient groping cases

JOHN RABY

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A former doctor at a Veterans Affairs hospital in West Virginia was indicted Tuesday on federal charges that he molested several male patients and violated their civil rights.

A federal grand jury in Charleston indicted Dr. Jonathan Yates on two counts of abusive sexual contact and five counts of depriving veterans of their civil rights under color of law — language used to describe crimes committed while on duty. If convicted, Yates would face a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Yates was arrested last month after he was charged in a federal criminal complaint involving one veteran he examined at the hospital in February 2019. Tuesday's indictment alleges that Yates sexually molested six male patients during appointments between September 2018 and February 2019.

Yates’ actions caused bodily injury to five of the veterans and deprived them of their constitutional right to bodily integrity, the indictment said. Yates is accused of knowingly engaging in sexual contact without their consent.

Officials said Yates temporarily immobilized two of the veterans, one by cracking his neck and the other with the use of acupuncture needles. He then molested them while they were incapacitated, the indictment said.

An after-hours message left with Yates' attorney was not immediately returned Tuesday night.

Yates was employed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as the “whole health director” at the VA hospital from approximately April 2018 to June 2019.

According to the original criminal affidavit, Yates commented during a February 2019 examination about a 42-year-old Army veteran's muscle tone and chest hair and called him “a real man." When the patient complied with the doctor’s request to remove his jeans, Yates said, “Boxer briefs: my favorite.”

The investigation into allegations of sexual assaults at the Beckley hospital was announced last September at the same time that federal prosecutors were conducting a sweeping criminal probe into the deaths of up to 11 patients at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg, West Virginia. Attorneys have said two of those deaths have been ruled homicides from wrongful insulin injections. No charges have been announced.

The VA is the government’s second-largest department, responsible for 9 million military veterans.