LOS ANGELES (AP) — A former campus gynecologist at the University of Southern California was charged Wednesday in the sexual assaults of 16 patients at the campus student health center, authorities said.
Dr. George Tyndall has been the subject of a Los Angeles police investigation for more than a year after patients claimed sexual abuse or harassment by the gynecologist.
The patients involved in the charges ranged in age from 17 to 29 and had visited the student health center for annual exams or other treatment, the district attorney’s office said.
Tyndall, 72, has denied any wrongdoing. He could face up to 53 years in prison if convicted.
He was arrested and charged with 29 felonies, including 18 counts of sexual penetration and 11 counts of sexual battery by fraud. Prosecutors recommended bail of about $2 million; arraignment has not been scheduled.
The charges allege that Tyndall committed unlawful sexual touching and penetration for his own arousal. Victims were unaware of what was going on because he fraudulently led them to believe it served a professional purpose, the criminal complaint states.
Prosecutors said police had presented reports on 134 alleged crimes and the investigation was continuing.
Greg Risling, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office, declined to provide further details, citing the ongoing investigation.
Tyndall’s medical license has been suspended since 2018 and he is not allowed to practice medicine, according to the state medical board’s website.
More than 700 women are pursuing individual claims against the doctor and university in state court. Separately, USC has agreed to a $215 million class-action settlement with former patients.
Interim USC President Wanda M. Austin said the university has cooperated with authorities.
“We care deeply about our community and our top priority continues to be the well-being of our students, health center patients and university community,” Austin said in a statement. “We hope this arrest will be a healing step.”
Andrew Flier, one of Tyndall’s lawyers, said he and his client were upset that police did not give them a chance to surrender before making the arrest.
“We are very much looking forward to adjudicating this case in a courtroom because of this character assassination,” Flier said. “We’re going to be able to punch some serious holes in all these allegations.”
Daniella Mohazab, who alleges Tyndall molested her in 2016 and has spoken out publicly, called the doctor’s arrest “a huge step in moving forward.”
“I broke down at work today in tears of happiness that Tyndall is behind bars,” she said during a news conference at her lawyer’s office, reading from a prepared statement. “I cannot explain how scared I felt walking around with the thought that I could run into Tyndall at any moment, in a grocery store, coffee shop or park.”
Mohazab’s attorney, Gloria Allred, said she represents 62 women, including Mohazab, who have filed lawsuits against Tyndall and USC. Allred said at least two are among the 16 women in the criminal complaint but she would not say if Mohazab was one of them.
“We are very proud of the courage that they have demonstrated in speaking to law enforcement about their allegations,” Allred said.
John Manly, an attorney who represents about 200 of the patients who have sued USC, said his clients were gratified to hear Tyndall has been arrested and hope the university also will be investigated.
He said his clients also were frustrated that it took more than a year for charges to be filed against Tyndall. Risling, the DA’s spokesman, declined to comment on the timeframe.
In a separate case, a former gynecologist at the University of California, Los Angeles appeared in court Wednesday on sexual abuse charges. A preliminary hearing was set for July 30.
Dr. James Heaps has pleaded not guilty to sexually assaulting two patients in 2017 and 2018.
Attorneys in civil actions against Heaps say they expect more former patients to come forward related to incidents dating back to the 1990s.
Heaps’ lawyer Tracy Green maintains the doctor did nothing wrong and women are coming forward based on advertising being done for law firms.
UCLA’s investigation began in December 2017, but the university did not alert the campus community about the allegations until Heaps was arrested earlier this month.
UCLA has promised an independent review of its response.