A doctor who worked for the University of California at Berkeley’s health center for nearly 22 years pleaded not guilty today to 19 felony counts involving allegations that he sexually assaulted six male patients.
Robert Martin Kevess, 52, who is free on $745,000 bail, is scheduled to return to Alameda County Superior Court on May 26 for a pretrial hearing.
Kevess declined to talk to reporters after his brief court appearance, but his attorney, Robert Beles, said he thinks the case against Kevess “is grossly overcharged” and that he may file a motion to dismiss some or all of the charges.
Beles said some of the incidents for which Kevess is charged involved activity between consenting adults, but he admitted that Kevess may have suffered from “a lapse of professional judgment.”
Beles said that if Kevess did anything wrong, he thinks that Kevess should be punished by having his medical license revoked but that he should not face criminal charges.
Kevess was hired at University Health Services, where he was a primary care doctor, in July 1989, but he resigned two weeks ago, shortly after alleged victims came forward. He agreed today to have his medical license suspended until the criminal case against him is completed.
Kevess worked at the health center’s main facility at 2222 Bancroft Way in Berkeley.
UC Berkeley police Capt. Margo Bennett said campus police began an investigation on March 23 after a former patient of Kevess came forward “with detailed allegations of illegal conduct” on the part of Kevess.
Bennett said, “We substantiated the allegations” and the investigation uncovered five other victims.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Susan Torrence, who specializes in prosecuting sex crimes, said “We don’t know of any other victims at this point but once these allegations are publicized, I wouldn’t be surprised if more victims came forward.”
Bennett also said, “We believe there are other victims.”
UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof said it appears that Kevess “violated many ethical limits” and that the allegations “are deeply unsettling for the professional caregivers at the university’s health service.”
Mogulof said, “We still don’t fully understand how this could have happened” because no one came forward until last month and no concerns were raised when Kevess last went through a credentialing review in June 2010.
Torrence said the charges against Kevess involve alleged sexual misconduct between March 2006 and Feb. 28 of this year.
UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau said the allegations against Kevess are “shocking and profoundly unsettling for all of us.”
He said, “On behalf of the entire Berkeley campus, we deeply regret any harm that has been caused.”
The victims were all students, and their ages ranged from 18 and 42, Torrence said.
The charges against Kevess include sexual penetration with a foreign object, specifically his fingers, sexual exploitation of a patient and sexual battery under a false professional purpose.
Torrence said she cannot comment on the details of Kevess’s alleged misconduct except to say that “there was sexual contact far beyond what was required for the course of a medical examination.”
She said Kevess’ victims “were (unaware) of the nature of his actions, and he fraudulently represented his actions as a professional service.”
Torrence said that even if Kevess claims that the alleged victims consented to engage in sexual activity with him, “consent is not a defense” because she believes that Kevess misrepresented the purpose of the touching.
“Consent is irrelevant,” Torrence said.
Beles said Kevess “treated numerous patients, some for sexually transmitted diseases” and said “all medical procedures performed were necessary and proper.”
Beles said Kevess “adamantly denies … that he ever engaged in fraudulent medical procedures.”
The defense attorney said, “Dr. Kevess is extremely grateful for the outpouring of support he has received from his colleagues and patients and is glad that people are grateful for the work he did.”
Judge Judith Ford issues a temporary restraining order against Kevess barring him from coming within 100 yards of eight men whose names were not mentioned in court. They are all listed as a “John Doe.”
Jeff Shuttleworth, Bay City News