UC doctor gets probation for patient sex abuse

A doctor who worked at the University of California at Berkeley’s health center for nearly 22 years was sentenced today to five years’ probation for his conviction for five felony counts for engaging in sex with four students who were his patients.

Prosecutor Chris Infante asked that Robert Martin Kevess, 56, be sentenced to 16 months in the county jail and be required to register as a sex offender but Alameda County Judge Jon Rolefson said he thinks probation is appropriate and Kevess shouldn’t have to register because he thinks it’s unlikely that Kevess will re-offend.

Kevess was initially charged on April 27, 2011, with 19 felony counts involving allegations that he sexually assaulted six male patients between March 2006 and February 2011 but some of the counts were dismissed after one of the victims died and Rolefson dismissed five counts last Sept. 26.

Rolefson said at that time that he dismissed one count of sexual penetration with a foreign object because there was a legitimate medical reason for Kevess to use his fingers in performing rectal examinations on his patients. The judge also said he decided to dismiss four counts of sexual battery because there was at least some medical purpose for Kevess to touch his patients.

Kevess pleaded no contest to the five remaining charges of sexual exploitation of a client on Feb. 11. Kevess was hired at University Health Services, where he was a primary care doctor, in July 1989 but resigned in April 2011, shortly after the alleged victims came forward. He later agreed to give up his medical license. The ages of the victims in the case ranged from the early 20s to the mid-30s.

Kevess’ lawyer, Robert Beles, said today that because Kevess can no longer get a job in the medical field “he’s like a man without a country or a career.” Beles said Kevess “brought himself down” and his conduct was unprofessional and he deserved to lose his license to practice medicine.

But Beles said he thinks Kevess’ sexual contact with the students was consensual and he didn’t engage in any serious criminal misconduct. However, Rolefson said, “What Mr. Kevess did was unethical, immoral and unlawful and was a crime.”

But Rolefson said he thinks that Kevess’ conduct was caused by the side effects of a medication he was taking for restless leg syndrome that weren’t well known at the time the medication was prescribed for him. Rolefson said those side effects, which are now better known, are impulse control disorder and hypersexuality.

The judge said Kevess’ use of the medication “helps explain why a man who wouldn’t normally do this” would engage in sexual misconduct. “There is nothing in his history before the mid-2000s to indicate anything like this,” Rolefson said.

Kevess’ impulse control problems ended after he stopped taking the medication and counseling has also helped him, Rolefson said. Outside court, the mother of one of the victims in the case objected to Kevess’ light sentence and began crying.