A former Tang Center doctor, who was charged with 19 counts of sexual assault against six former patients, is now being sued by the parents of deceased campus alumnus Elgin Stafford.
Stafford was found dead in March in the Dominguez Channel in Carson, Calif., after being reported missing for a week. Stafford, 23, graduated from UC Berkeley in 2010 before enrolling at the University of Southern California for graduate school.
The cause of Stafford’s death is still unknown, but his parents claim that he committed suicide after being unable to cope with alleged incidents of sexual assault from former campus physician Robert Kevess, who worked at the campus for nearly 22 years.
The Stafford family filed the suit on June 29, claiming that Stafford committed suicide after being sexually abused by Kevess multiple times while being treated for a sexually transmitted disease in 2010.
According to the suit, as a result of Stafford’s repeated sexual abuse and violations, he was “plagued with nightmares of sexual violation, felt intense shame, humiliation and anger and suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.”
Kevess’ attorney Robert Beles said that Kevess’ alleged conduct did not in any way cause Stafford’s death.
“The suit doesn’t seem to stand up, because the coroners have not ruled suicide as the cause of Stafford’s death,” Beles said. “There doesn’t seem to be a connection with Kevess’ actions and Stafford’s death.”
According to the suit, Kevess subjected Stafford to both physical and mental examinations, attempting to gain Stafford’s trust. Kevess told Stafford that all the physical examinations were simply regular procedures.
Kevess allegedly gained Stafford’s trust by having him share intimate information including “family history, romantic and sexual relations, self-esteem and body-image issues.” The suit states that Kevess then used Stafford’s trust to perform “unnecessary and shocking prolonged prostate exams.”
Campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof said that prior to the first complaints the campus received, there were no warning signs of any kind that Kevess would commit these acts, even after extensive background checks on Kevess.
“The allegations made by the district attorney are very serious, and if they are proven to be true, it is unacceptable,” Mogulof said. “After hearing the complaint we acted immediately and removed Kevess from his position and began an investigation immediately.”
Kevess pleaded not guilty to the original sexual offense charges at an arraignment April 28.
The suit states that the center’s negligence and lack of investigation into Kevess’ prior conduct failed to keep patients safe.
“We are extremely saddened by the news of Stafford’s passing,” Mogulof said.
Kevess resigned last year and accepted an interim suspension of his medical license after the 19 complaints of sex crimes were filed by the Alameda County District Attorney in April 2011.
A previous version of this article misquoted campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof as saying “the allegations made by the attorney are very serious.” In fact, Mogulof said it was the district attorney’s allegations against Kevess that are very serious, as the Alameda County District Attorney originally charged the former UC Berkeley physician with 19 counts of alleged sex crimes against former patients in April 2011.