UC doctor charged with sexually assaulting patients

Robert Kevess

A doctor who worked at UC Berkeley’s Health Services for more than 20 years has been charged with 19 counts of sexual battery and sexual exploitation for having sex with at least six of his male patients.

Over a period of at least five years, Robert Kevess, 52, of Oakland used his position as a doctor at the Tang Health Center at 2222 Bancroft Way to allegedly fondle his male patients’ genitalia, digitally penetrate them, and have oral and anal sex with them, according to an indictment announced Thursday by the Alameda County District Attorney’s office. Some of the times the patients were unconscious of the nature of the assault because Kevass said it was a medical procedure, according to the indictment.

“It’s very serious in that the alleged perpetrator is a medical doctor in whom people placed extra trust,” said Teresa Drenick, a deputy district attorney.

Kevess’ attorney, Robert Beles, said that his client was innocent. While he did have sexual relations with some of his patients, there was no coercion.

“Everything was consensual,” said Bales. “It’s professional bad judgment having consensual activity with patients, but it was consensual.”

Kevess, who was also medical director and doctor at the Berkeley Free Clinic, has resigned from UC and has turned in his medical license, said Bales. He is scheduled to appear in court at 2 pm today and will plead not guilty, said Bales.

UC Berkeley officials expressed regret at the event and set up a special phone line for others to report possible abuse.

“We are deeply shocked and saddened by the news that a former University Health Services staff physician, Robert Kevess, MD, has been charged by the Alameda County district attorney with engaging in illegal sexual contact with some of his male patients,” Claudia Covello, the executive director of health services and Brad Buchman, the medical director, said in a statement. “These allegations, if proven to be true, stand in stark opposition to everything we stand for and believe in as professionals dedicated to providing high-quality care for our patients.”

Kevess allegedly used his position as a doctor to touch and have sex with his patients, according to the indictment. At times he would fondle his patients pretending that his touches were medically necessary. In some cases, Kevess treated a patient and then got involved in a relationship with him, according to the charges.

Kevess grew up in New York City and got his medical degree in 1984 from New York University School of Medicine. He completed his residency in Family Medicine in 1988 at San Francisco General Hospital. He specialized in depression and anxiety, dermatology, migraines, men’s health, gay men’s health, and transgender health, including hormone treatements, according to a NYU Medical School alumni newsletter.

In addition to working at the Health Center, Kevess also gave lectures in various UC Berkeley courses.

On his Facebook page, Kevess describes himself as an “Iconoclastic, a freethinker, and goofy at times; kind, thoughtful, and caring (I hope); passionate about helping others; concerned about the state of the world and where it’s headed; committed to my own spiritual and personal growth path.”

Kevess is an avid photographer and his portfolio on RedBubble.com  included a number of images of naked men, although the vast majority are of buildings. He is also a member of that site’s “The Male Nude” group and “Bum Appreciation Group.”

One of his former patients praised his medical abilities.

“Dr. Kevess is my doctor through UC Berkeley.” wrote the patient on a doctor-rating site. “I have had a wealth of frustrating medical experiences over the last five years involving neurological and visual problems that no one has really been able to clearly diagnose. Dr. Kevess has been the only doctor to take the time to listen to me explain all my concerns, take my worries seriously and make me feel like he genuinely cared about my health- I cannot tell you how amazing that feels after so many years of feeling ignored by so many other doctors. He treated my migraines successfully and always takes the time to check in with how I am doing. He is a really kind, caring person who takes the time to ask questions and really listen to your answers! I cannot praise doctor Kevess enough. He thoughtfully answers questions, never makes you feel rushed or bothersome and treats you like a human being rather than a number. I wish more doctors were like him.”

Update 2:25 pm: From the university: Concerned patients may also seek confidential guidance and support by calling a special line established by University Health Services at (510) 642-3738 or via email to: tangadmin@uhs.berkeley.edu. In addition, police investigators are urging former patients who believe they may have had sexual contact with the physician in the past to contact Berkeley UCPD  at (510) 642-0472.

 

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  • Guest

    Part of this is incorrect – the victims were not unconscious at the time, the charges state that the victims were unconscious of the nature of the act due to the perpetrator’s fraud. Not physically unconscious. Not defending the acts at all, which are inexcusable, but it’s important to keep the facts straight.

  • http://berkeleyside.com Frances Dinkelspiel

    Thanks for pointing that out. I clearly misread the indictment. I have made the correction

  • Iceland_1622

    This introduction ( below ) may be helpful for the victims as well as all of the others attempting to heal as well as make sense of that which cannot be made sense of. These predators are in all areas and levels of society vertically and horizontally. Galvin de Becker’s book, the “Gift of Fear” will give you special insight to the warning signs and signals as many are people you already know or will encounter in life as well Martha Stout’s, Ph.D book listed on the site.

    THE PSYCHOPATH – The Mask of Sanity

    “Imagine – if you can – not having a conscience, none at all, no feelings of guilt or remorse no matter what you do, no limiting sense of concern for the well-being of strangers, friends, or even family members. Imagine no struggles with shame, not a single one in your whole life, no matter what kind of selfish, lazy, harmful, or immoral action you had taken.”

    The high incidence of sociopathy in human society has a profound effect on the rest of us who must live on this planet, too, even those of us who have not been clinically traumatized. The individuals who constitute this 4 percent drain our relationships, our bank accounts, our accomplishments, our self-esteem, our very peace on earth.

    http://www.cassiopaea.com/cassiopaea/psychopath.htm

  • Bill

    The “Bum Appreciation Group” redbubble.com is mostly photos of women. This leads to my point: why put links to his portfolio site? That seems completely off-point from the article.

  • Bill

    The “Bum Appreciation Group” redbubble.com is mostly photos of women. This leads to my point: why put links to his portfolio site? That seems completely off-point from the article.

  • The Sharkey

    My first connection with the word “bum” is a homeless person, so I was very confused about what being in a “Bum Appreciation Group” had to do with this story until I clicked through the link.

    They mean “bum” as in “buttocks” and apparently most of the photos in the group are NSFW and can’t be viewed unless you sign up for the site.

  • http://berkeleyside.com Frances Dinkelspiel

    I was trying to provide the information I found about the doctor to readers. I included info from his Facebook page, medical school alumni newsletter, doctor rating site and photo site. I included all of what I found to try and provide a portrait of him. I thought the kinds of photos he does gives some insight into what he likes.

  • Szunderwood

    Note how the version of this story which the Berkeley Daily Planet reprinted is so sanitized that it almost reads like Winston Smith did the copy. If you compare and contrast with Berkeleyside’s more vivid and revealing account of this lurid tale, you see the difference between in-depth reporting and ideologically motivated obfuscation:

    Former UC Berkeley Physician Arrested, Charged with Sexual Misconduct
    By Saul Sugarman (BCN)
    Thursday April 28, 2011

    A former University of California physician has been arrested on suspicion of engaging in sexual misconduct with patients at UC Berkeley’s health care facility, according to prosecutors.

    Robert Kevess, 52, of Oakland, was charged with 19 counts of engaging in illegal sex acts with patients, according to court documents filed by the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office on Wednesday.

    Kevess was arrested by UC Berkeley police but was freed after posting an undisclosed bail amount, prosecutors said.

    Police spokesman Lt. Alex Yao said he couldn’t comment on the date and location of the arrest, but said details would be provided at a news conference scheduled for late this morning at the district attorney’s office.

    Kevess is scheduled to be arraigned at 2 p.m. today at the Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse at 661 Washington St. in Oakland, prosecutors said.

    olice began investigating Kevess when a victim claimed he had been inappropriately touched during a medical exam, according to a statement by UC Berkeley police Lt. Marc DeCoulode in the court document.

    Investigators then learned that Kevess had allegedly had inappropriate contact with multiple victims between 2006 and 2011, DeCoulode wrote.

    Kevess has been accused of inappropriate acts with eight victims, according to court documents.

    On Kevess’ Facebook page, he describes himself as “concerned about the state of the world and where it’s headed; committed to my own spiritual and personal growth path.”

  • Nick

    Dr Kevess was my primary care physician for about a year. He had a good bedside manner and took the time to answer all of my questions. The article also notes that he was the medical director for the Berkeley Free Clinic. The language of the indictment makes it hard to decipher what precisely Kevess did, but if it was truly consensual conduct between consenting adults, then this is a very unfortunate end to his career.

  • Barry Swank, RN

    Dr. Robert Kevess was a volunteer physician and medical director with
    the Berkeley Free Clinic for nearly 20 years, until 2007. He is very
    much beloved by the members of the Berkeley Free Clinic for the
    countless hours of time he freely gave, both in personally seeing many
    hundreds of clients free of charge, and in the many hours he donated
    as our medical director teaching us and helping us to keep our
    standards high. We valued him for his unquenchable cheerfulness and
    for his attentiveness to detail. He was always willing to take
    whatever time was necessary to see that our clients were carefully
    evaluated and that they received the treatment or referrals they
    needed. He gave countless hours of unpaid service to other organizations in our community as well. One of the nicest most caring doctors I have ever known.

    It is hard to tell exactly what he has been accused of. But, touching, using fingers for a digital exam, and using an anasocope for an exam on a any male patient with rectal discomfort or a history of fingers, toys, or other penetration as part of their sexual activity (either heterosexual or homosexual) is totally appropriate. To suggest that this was for the doctor’s “sexual gratification” or that an anascope is a “foreign object” is misguided at best and totally homophobic at worst. It will send a wave a fear over doctors everywhere, causing them to hesitate to give the best care their male client’s deserve. Do male doctors need an attendant present for male clients as well as female clients to prevent such charges of sexual assault. I fear that rather than incur the added cost, too many doctors and clinics will choose to eliminate such exams to the detriment of the client’s well being.

    Barry Swank, RN

  • Iceland_1622

    Clinical perspective and reality factors on psychopaths and sex predators in trusted positions laminated with the cloak of social respectability, power and status:

    “For decades, the psychiatrist with the ruddy face and reddish beard was a fixture in San Mateo County mental health and political circles.

    He served with San Mateo County District Attorney Jim Fox and Supervisor Richard Gordon on the county’s Children and Families First Commission, and in 2002, he was honored by the county board of supervisors with a lifetime achievement award for “his tireless effort to improve the lives of children and adolescents.”

    During his long and distinguished career as a local child psychiatrist, he received patient referrals from the San Mateo County juvenile justice system.

    From 1993 to 1995, he served as president of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the leading professional medical association for child psychiatrists with more than 7,500 members nationwide.

    Callagy said the doctor did not resist arrest and was “very stoic” when officers arrived at his home Thursday night.

    Prosecutors Thursday filed 14 counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14 years old against Ayres, Callagy said. He said the charges involved multiple victims, but he declined to give a specific number”

    http://articles.sfgate.com/2007-04-06/news/17240890_1_child-psychiatrist-dr-william-ayres-san-mateo-county

  • Thankyouanita

    Dr Kevess was my doctor at the Berkeley and I absolutely love him. I echo the other posts, he’s the nicest most dedicated doctor you’d ever want to meet. That he’s being prosecuted in part for having consensual sex with his patients is ridiculous and smacks of people trying to take advantage of the situation. Anal penetration is completely appropriate in a medical context, both “digitally” and with “foreign objects”. He’s given me such exams and was nothing but professional. It angers me that people are ruining his career and I hope he comes out okay.

    Look at his art and photography… this is a person’s life here… how heart-wrenching.

  • Anonymous

    At this point we do not know if Robert Kevess, MD is Guilty as charged. Time, of course, will tell.

    But as one who investigates physician misbehavior for a living, I can fairly report that if he is indeed convicted, he will join a medical miscreant fraternity of jaw-dropping proportions.

    For those unaware, there exists a rather secretive set of nondescript offices on a side-street in Washington DC, known as the Nat’l Practitioner Data Bank. Their primary function is to collect, and discreetly disperse, names and medical license numbers of an astonishing number of doctors who just couldn’t seem to stay out of trouble. A fair percentage of their files are referred to as “Dangerous” or “Questionable” by the Health Research Group.

    Any guesses how many physician names make up the NPDB files?

    Well, they had 237,000, at last report. You may want to pause here, and take another peek at all those zeros.

    The reality is, almost exactly 50 doctors per WEEK are found guilty of Felony-level deeds. That adds up to almost exactly 2,500 every year. We happen to have 11,210 in our files, just since 2004. Their crimes?

    1. Medical Fraud
    2. Falsification of Records
    3. Prescription Drug Pushing
    4. Unnecessary Procedures/Surgeries
    5. Patient Assault
    6. Child Sexual Abuse
    7. Secretly Filming their nude patients or nursing staff
    8. Fake Botox injections
    9. Homicide
    10. Attempted Murder
    11. Conspiracy to commit Murder

    The ugly reality is three-fold:

    1. NO profession in society generates more crime; inflicts more unnecessary suffering & death; nor evades more appropriate discipline, than the errant doctor population.

    2. The overwhelming number of physicians, nurses & hospital administrators have never reported their unethical, incompetent or criminal peers.

    3. You didn’t hear a single peep of any of this, during the incessant 2-year yammering called ‘Health Care Debate.’

    “Finest health care system in the world?”

    We may want to stop the ridiculous flag-waving for a while.

  • Brentfinnigan

    Thank you for proving the info about the practitioner database.  I was sexually assaulted by a doctor in 2008.  He had seven previous misconduct complaints going back to 1994 and is still practicing.  His office is directly across the street from Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma WA.  Men don’t usually have chaperons during genital/rectal exams therefor the doc will always have plausible denial.  It will come down to the patient’s word vs the docs. 

    In my case I had severe and medically documented and photographic proof of my physical injuries and the prosecutors still  didn’t have what they felt they needed to win the criminal case.  My advice to all men is don’t think it won’t happen to you.  It only took about 20 seconds for the doc to injure me before I could stop him.  The combination of being in a comprised physical position, the surprise and extreme pain and fear paralyzes you that same if your spinal cord was severed. 

    It took two corrective surgeries and I have permanent injuries from the assault.  Never mind the anxiety every time I go into doctors office.  I don’t know when that will ever go away.

    Guys…Be careful!

  • Anonymous

    Brent Finnigan -

    Thank you for sharing your comments, as well as including your own personal, very regrettable, experience. I am very sorry to hear what happened to you, and do hope you have found peace as time has gone by. It is the very least that you deserve.

    As I mentioned earlier, it is no surprise that your former doctor is still in business of undressing people for a living. NO group of any profession successfully dodges more discipline than criminal MDs.

    You know, after nearly 30 years of scribbling notes on undisciplined doctor behavior, I finally made the decision to focus on this surprising phenomenon as a career. So I wrote a book, and now I give talks on the subject. Although I had thousands of notes, I put the word out to medical professionals nationwide, to please share their individual stories. To my amazement, well over 450 sent me emails, most with names, dates & times, which I required for publication. Most of these bizarre stories were from nurses, but a surprising number came from physicians who – themselves – were embarrassed and exasperated by the antics of their nutty peers.

    And now 2 years later, I still receive 20-30 off-the-chart goofy stories a week, and am prepping for a follow-up to the original book. In case anyone is interested, the title is “America’s Dumbest Doctors” and is the only known book of its kind.

    Please do be safe out there, and never allow a lab coat to defeat your own common sense.

  • Brentfinnigan

    Our local news media won’t touch the story even though two his recent complaints are on public record with the dept of health.  I requested and got copies all of his past complaints and actions and sent them to the news outlets.  The news media is also not interested in advising men to be very careful during genital/rectal exams since there are no chaperons present unless a nurse assistant is required.  WA State law requires chaperons for women during any type of pelvic exam/treatments.

    Guys must be aware that any deviant sick doc will exploit that loop hole if they choose to.  Don’t think just because you 5’10″ and 230 Lbs that you could defend yourself from an assault.  It only takes 20 seconds to get a serious tissue tear if a doc decides to try fisting you.  Sorry to be graphic but that was my reality and I am still dealing with prostate and bladder scarring. 

  • Brent

    In my case common sense would not have helped.  The assault was a complete surprise and I had no warning or clue about anything.  All you can do is have someone with you or have a video camera running with the doc aware of it.  They hold all the cards and I walked right into his trap.  He even used info I put on my intake form about a L-4,L-5 degenerative disk.  He rammed his elbow right down on that spot to try to pin me.