Ex-VA doctor sentenced to 25 years over molesting patients

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A former doctor at a Veterans Affairs hospital in West Virginia was sentenced to 25 years in prison on Monday after pleading guilty to federal charges that he molested three male patients and violated their civil rights.

U.S. District Judge Frank Volk sentenced Jonathan Yates, 52, to the prison term and three years of supervised release, prosecutors announced.

Last September, he had pleaded guilty in court filings to three counts of depriving veterans of their civil rights under color of law, which means the crimes were committed while on duty.

Yates worked at the Beckley VA Medical Center as a doctor of osteopathic medicine, which involves hands-on treatments through stretching and massaging. His patients and victims were seeking to manage their chronic pain.

He was arrested in April 2020. A grand jury indicted him a month later.

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

Yates also admitted to digitally penetrating a third veteran’s rectum without any medical purpose.

“The sentence today reflects the seriousness of this defendant’s misconduct,” the deputy assistant attorney general of the civil rights division, Gregory Friel, said in a statement. “In a despicable betrayal of his oath, he used his specialized medical knowledge and expertise to sexually abuse his own patients. He has now been held accountable.”

Yates’ attorney did not immediately return an email for comment.

“Yates committed hideous crimes in a hospital room, which should be a sanctuary for patients,” said FBI Pittsburgh Special Agent in Charge Michael Christman.

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

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