USC’s former longtime campus gynecologist, who’s accused of sexual abusing hundreds of women under the guise of medical exams, pleaded not guilty Monday to charges of sexually assaulting 16 patients over the course of seven years.
George Tyndall, 72, who is being held on nearly $2.1 million bail, is due back in court Wednesday for a bail-review hearing. His attorney said Tyndall is not a flight risk and plans to ask that his bail be reduced, aiming for $500,000 if the doctor cannot be released on his own recognizance.
“Clearly the doctor is not a flight risk,” defense attorney Andrew Flier told the court. “He’s not a danger or a threat to anyone … I think bail’s being used as a weapon in this case.”
A preliminary hearing was set for July 12 after Flier asked for the earliest possible date for the proceeding, which will determine whether there is sufficient evidence to proceed to trial.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Teresa Sullivan ordered that Tyndall surrender his passport and not practice medicine, although Flier said Tyndall’s medical license has been inactive since last August and his client doesn’t have a passport.
Tyndall appeared in the downtown Los Angeles courtroom wearing a protective vest, but Flier said his client is not suicidal and was wearing the vest for his own protection.
Speaking to reporters outside the courtroom, Flier said Tyndall, though suffering from serious medical issues related to his heart and diabetes, has “a strong mental attitude” despite the stress of the case and the associated “character assassination.”
Tyndall is “really looking forward to … having his day in court,” Flier said.
Tyndall was taken into custody last Wednesday outside his Mid-Wilshire apartment. He complained of chest pains after being arrested and was taken to a hospital for treatment, but was moved into the county jail late Friday afternoon, according to his attorney.
Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore said Tyndall was carrying a .38-caliber revolver when he was arrested and that he did not believe the physician had a permit to carry a concealed weapon.
Flier told reporters that the weapon was previously licensed and permitted.
“He had a gun for his own protection,” Flier said, citing threats against his client.
Tyndall is charged with 18 counts of sexual penetration and 11 counts of sexual battery by force, all felonies, and would face up to 53 years in prison if convicted. Prosecutors said the alleged victims range in age from 17 to 29, and the alleged assaults occurred between 2009 and 2016 while Tyndall worked at the campus health center.
Flier said last week that his client expects to be exonerated and told reporters Monday that Tyndall has never waivered in that stance.
The defense attorney said Tyndall’s exams were always chaperoned by another medical staffer and the doctor never performed an illegal or unethical exam.
“None of this ever happened,” Flier told reporters. “He’s just been really crucified.”
Alleged victims have claimed they were inappropriately fondled or photographed by Tyndall under the guise of gynecological exams. Many also accused him of making sexually charged comments during the exams.
At most, Tyndall is guilty of making inappropriate comments, Flier said.
Asked whether the sheer number of complaints against his client amounted to evidence of his guilt, the defense attorney said, “We hear 100, 200, 400 complaining witnesses … we’re down to 16.”
Moore said last week that a dozen LAPD detectives have investigated assault allegations by more than 350 women and presented more than 130 potential cases to the District Attorney’s Office, raising the possibility of more charges being filed.
USC officials say the university has been cooperating with the investigation and on Wednesday, then-USC Interim President Wanda M. Austin said, “We hope this arrest will be a healing step for former patients and our entire university.”
Hundreds of former patients have sued Tyndall and USC, accusing the university of failing to respond to allegations of abuse by the campus gynecologist dating back decades.
On June 13, a federal judge in Los Angeles gave preliminary approval to a $215 million class-action settlement with some of the plaintiffs.
In a letter sent to the USC community, Austin stressed that the university has “significantly strengthened operations and oversight at the Student Health Center,” including hiring more female physicians and new protocols for investigating complaints.
U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson has set a January hearing to discuss finalizing the settlement, under which Tyndall’s former patients each would receive minimum payments of $2,500, in addition to being eligible to claim an award of between $7,500 to $250,000, subject to review by a three-member panel.
The class includes as many as 17,000 women seen by Tyndall at the USC Student Health Center between Aug. 14, 1989, and June 21, 2016, whose treatment included an examination of their breast or genital areas by the physician.
Hundreds of other women are still suing the university and Tyndall in state court. Attorneys for those alleged victims have criticized the federal class-action settlement, calling it inadequate.
The lawsuits contend the university received numerous complaints of Tyndall’s alleged sexually abusive behavior, dating back to at least 1988, and actively and deliberately concealed his actions. Attorneys for some former patients allege that following an internal investigation of complaints against Tyndall in 2016, the university paid Tyndall a substantial financial settlement so he would quietly resign.
USC officials have denied any cover-up.
In an open letter to faculty and staff in May 2018, USC Provost Michael Quick said top administrators did not know about the complaints until 2016.
“It is true that our system failed, but it is important that you know that this claim of a cover-up is patently false,” Quick wrote. “We would never knowingly put students in harm’s way.”
Los Angeles Times reporters Matt Hamilton, Harriet Ryan and Paul Pringle were awarded the Pulitzer Prize for investigative journalism in April for their work uncovering the long-running sexual abuse allegations against Tyndall. The Times’ investigation into Tyndall began in early 2018 after Ryan received an anonymous phone tip.
The uproar over the Tyndall allegations, on the heels of other misconduct cases involving different campus doctors, ultimately led USC President C.L. Max Nikias to step down.
USC established a hotline for complaints about Tyndall and has offered free counseling to his former patients.
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