Former Veterans Affairs Doctor Pleads Guilty to Three Civil Rights Offenses
A doctor of osteopathic medicine who formerly worked at the Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center in Beckley, West Virginia, pleaded guilty today to three counts of depriving veterans of their civil rights under color of law by sexually abusing them.
Jonathan Yates, 51, of Bluefield, Virginia, was previously indicted on five counts of depriving veterans of their civil rights under color of law, in violation of Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 242, and two counts of abusive sexual contact, in violation of Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 2244(b).
At the change of plea hearing held today before U.S. District Judge Frank W. Volk, Yates admitted that he rubbed the genitals of two veterans, and digitally penetrated a third veteran’s rectum under the guise of legitimate medicine, when in fact he acted without a legitimate medical purpose. This conduct, performed while Yates was acting under color of law in his capacity as a VA physician and a federal employee, deprived the veterans of their constitutional right to bodily integrity and caused them pain. According to the plea documents, the veterans had sought treatment from Yates to manage chronic pain through osteopathic manipulative therapy.
“This doctor abused his position of trust by preying on veterans who came to him for medical treatment,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division. “As this prosecution demonstrates, he will now be held accountable for using his position as a VA physician to deceive and molest his patients.”
“By virtue of today’s plea agreement, Yates stands convicted of heinous criminal acts committed against military veterans who served our country honorably and with great sacrifice,” said U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart for the Southern District of West Virginia. “Throughout this matter, from the commencement of this investigation to today’s plea, our focus has been on seeking justice for these veterans by holding Yates accountable for these terrible acts.”
“We are pleased with the outcome of this investigation,” said FBI Pittsburgh Special Agent in Charge Michael Christman. “These cases are tough to work and the facts of this case are appalling. The patients and their families at this hospital expected and deserved better care and instead were caused both physical and mental injuries. Accepting the charges against him and pleading guilty allows the victims and their families to not have to relive the abuse during a trial, but still find some form of justice.”
“What occurred at the Beckley VA Medical Center is particularly despicable because this abuse was at the hands of a doctor who was entrusted with providing compassionate and supportive care to veterans,” said VA Inspector General Michael J. Missal. “The result today was due to the tireless and dedicated efforts of the VA OIG investigators and our law enforcement partners. This doctor will no longer be able to prey on the trust of those who have dedicated their lives in service to our nation.”
Yates is scheduled for sentencing on Jan. 4, 2021. He faces a statutory maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.
The case was investigated by the FBI, the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General, and the VA Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by Special Litigation Counsel Samantha Trepel and Trial Attorney Kyle Boynton of the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg McVey of the Southern District of West Virginia, and Assistant Chief Kilby MacFadden of the Fraud Section of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia at http://www.wvsd.uscourts.gov/ or on http://pacer.wvsd.uscourts.gov/