Former VA doctor sentenced to 25 years in federal prison

“Today, [Jonathan] Yates has been called to account for his heinous acts. While his prison sentence will not undo the significant harm Yates inflicted on the victims, we hope that it will ease their pain.”

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After pleading guilty to three felony counts of deprivation of rights under color of law, a former doctor of osteopathic medicine who previously worked at the Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center in Beckley, West Virginia, was recently sentenced for depriving veterans of their civil rights by sexually abusing them.

In February 2019, a 42-year-old U.S. Army veteran suffering from “service-connected disability” was examined by Dr. Jonathan Yates at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Beckley. According to the criminal complaint, the patient told Dr. Yates that he wanted a referral to continue massage therapy for chronic pain. Instead, Dr. Yates temporarily incapacitated him by cracking his neck against his will and sexually molested the veteran.

On April 2, 2020, Yates was arrested at his home and charged with deprivation of rights under color of law. On May 12, 2020, a federal grand jury returned a seven-count indictment charging Yates with five counts of depriving veterans of their civil rights under color of law and two counts of abusive sexual contact.

On September 17, 2020, Yates pleaded guilty to three counts of depriving veterans of their civil rights under color of law by sexually abusing them. At the plea hearing, 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.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Frank Volk sentenced Yates to 25 years in federal prison and three years of supervised release. Yates surrendered his medical licenses as a condition of his plea agreement.

“The sentence today reflects the seriousness of this defendant’s misconduct. 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,” said Deputy Assistant Attorney General Gregory Friel of the Civil Rights Division in a recent press release. “It is a testament to the bravery of our veterans that so many came forward to bring this defendant to justice.”

“Military veterans who serve and sacrifice to protect our nation deserve only the best of care. Yates betrayed his oath as a physician and the veterans under his care,” stated U.S. Attorney Michael Stuart for the Southern District of West Virginia. “Today, Yates has been called to account for his heinous acts. While his prison sentence will not undo the significant harm Yates inflicted on the victims, we hope that it will ease their pain.”

“Yates committed hideous crimes in a hospital room, which should be a sanctuary for patients,” noted FBI Pittsburgh Special Agent in Charge Michael Christman. “The facts of this case are disgusting and these patients and their families deserved better care. While today’s sentence won’t take away what happened to these patients who dedicated their lives in service to our nation, Yates will never be able to hurt anyone again. Hopefully, this will serve as justice for his victims.”

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