OAKLAND — A hearing for former Tang Center physician Robert Kevess, who is accused of sexual exploitation, was postponed, one week after five felony counts were dismissed from the charges against him.
At Friday’s court hearing at the Rene C. Davidson Courthouse, lawyers from both the defense and the prosecution agreed to push back the disposition and settlement conference, originally scheduled for that day, to Jan. 16. The jury trial will begin March 23.
Kevess was arrested in 2011 on suspicion of sexually assaulting six male former patients beginning in 2006. Since he was first charged in 2011 with 19 felony counts of sexual battery, sexual exploitation and sexual penetration, 15 charges have been dropped, and one has been added.
The five charges dropped Sept. 26, which came after a motion to dismiss them was filed by the defense, included one count of sexual penetration and four of sexual battery under false professional purpose. Prosecutors had alleged that the former patients were unaware of the nature of Kevess’ actions, because he fraudulently represented them as serving a professional purpose.
Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Chris Infante said the district attorney’s office disagreed with the decision to drop the five charges.
“We opposed it,” he said. “We thought that all the counts should be there, but the judge made his ruling, and we respect that ruling.”
Kevess was a doctor at the Tang Center for about 22 years until his resignation in April of 2011 — fewer than one month after a former patient came forward with allegations of illegal sexual contact with Kevess. He surrendered himself to police later that month and was released on bail of $745,000.
Since then, the case has taken much longer than expected to make its way through the court system, according to Infante. He said the March 23 trial date was a joint decision between himself and Robert Beles, Kevess’ attorney, made in part because Infante has trials scheduled up until that month.
At an arraignment in April, Kevess pleaded not guilty to charges of sexual battery and sexual exploitation of a patient. But a plea deal that includes 60 months of jail time will not be taken off the table until the trial begins, Infante said.
In a May interview with The Daily Californian, Beles said there was insufficient evidence of the allegations made against Kevess and attributed his actions to the effects of a prescription drug he was taking, Mirapex, that can lead to hypersexual behavior and gambling.
“They’re trying to say that some of the people were unaware — that the exam was a sexually gratifying event,” Beles said in the interview. “There’s no trickery involved.”
In 2012, the parents of Elgin Stafford, a UC Berkeley graduate and former patient of Kevess’, filed a lawsuit against Kevess and the UC Board of Regents alleging that Kevess’ actions had driven their son to commit suicide. The suit was dismissed with prejudice in January of last year, meaning it cannot be refiled in court.
Staff writer Amy Jiang contributed to this report.