Former Berkeley Doctor Is Charged With Sexually Assaulting 6 Students

April 28, 2011

A former doctor at the University of California at Berkeley was arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of sexually assaulting six patients, all male Berkeley students, over a five-year period.

The family physician, Robert Martin Kevess, is accused of inappropriately touching the six patients during medical examinations and falsely claiming that some of the sexual acts served a medical purpose, according to charges filed by Alameda County prosecutors. He resigned two weeks ago after working for Berkeley for more than 20 years.

The 19 felony counts against Dr. Kevess list assaults dating from March 2006 to last month. Prosecutors said the alleged assaults took place at the Tang Center, which offers health services to Berkeley students and staff and is across the street from the campus.

Dr. Kevess pleaded not guilty on Thursday and has been released on $745,000 bail.

Authorities did not describe the alleged crimes or identify the victims, except to say that they were male Berkeley students between the ages of 18 and 42. Susan Torrence, deputy district attorney, said at a news conference on Thursday that she would expect more victims in the case to come forward.

A former patient made allegations of illegal sexual contact to health-center officials last month, and others surfaced during a resulting investigation, the university said.

"We still don't fully understand how this could have happened," said a Berkeley spokesman, Dan Mogulof. No previous complaints had been filed against Dr. Kevess, who passed a conduct review last year, he said. The health center is reviewing its policies and will provide support to any students and staff members who have been affected, he said.

A lawyer for Dr. Kevess told the San Francisco Chronicle that some of the incidents involved activity between consenting adults. The lawyer, Robert Beles, said the case had been "grossly overcharged."

James C. Turner, a University of Virginia professor of internal medicine and a former president of the American College Health Association, said the allegations are unsettling and extremely rare "I've been in college health since 1985," Dr. Turner said. "I can't recall any such charges before."

Berkeley officials said the health center was reviewing its chaperone policy, which requires a female attendant to be present when a male clinician conducts a sensitive exam of a female patient. The policy does not require an attendant for male patients, and Dr. Turner said he had never heard of an institution extending its chaperone policy to that group.