A federal complaint has been filed against a doctor accused of sexually assaulting patients at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Beckley.
Dr. Jonathan Yates was charged with deprivation of rights under color of law, which refers to actions the doctor took beyond his authority, resulting in bodily injury and including kidnapping. He was arrested this morning.
Allegations of sexual assault have circulated for months. Yates was previously named by more than 30 patients who collectively filed a complaint with the West Virginia Board of Osteopathic Medicine.
U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart said today on MetroNews “Talkline” that the federal investigation started last June.
The complaint was filed in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of West Virginia. Yates was set for an initial appearance this afternoon, probably via video.
“Veteran 1, as we identified him, was effectively sexually molested,” said Stuart, who suggested additional charges could be filed.
“It is a serious charge, and we take this incredibly seriously.”
— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) April 2, 2020
This week’s federal filing includes an affidavit by Special Agent Michael Moyer of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Moyer describes the experiences of several patients who described unwanted contact while under the care of Yates.
Yates is a doctor of osteopathic medicine and started serving as the Whole Health Director at the medical center in April 2018. He no longer works there.
Moyer interviewed multiple veterans under Yates’ care, as well as a doctor who worked directly alongside Yates. The affidavit focuses on the experiences of a 42-year-old male veteran of the U.S. Army who went to see Yates about chronic back pain, as well as pain in his toes, fingers and hips.
The veteran, who wanted a referral to continue with massage therapy treatments, went to see Yates in February, 2019. At the start of the appointment, the two entered an examination room and Yates locked the door.
The veteran said Yates made several comments about his muscle tone, commented on his chest hair and called him a real man.
Later, the doctor told the veteran to remove his boxer briefs and commented “Boxer briefs — my favorite. Keeps everything tight and in place.” As the veteran was taking off the briefs, according to the affidavit, Yates grabbed the briefs and pulled them all the way down.
The affidavit then describes the doctor rubbing the veteran’s lower body with an ungloved hand, repeatedly telling the patient “it was okay to be sexually aroused by this contact.”
The veteran described pain as the doctor massaged a sensitive area. The doctor also began to massage the patient’s buttocks, according to the affidavit, the veteran told him to stop, and “Dr. Yates appeared irritated, stopped, and smacked VETERAN 1’s buttocks.”
The visit continued with the doctor cracking the patient’s neck even though the veteran had earlier stated that he could not have his neck cracked because of the ongoing medical issues.
“The pain was excruciating. I felt it all over my body,” the patient wrote in his own statement that was filed in federal court. “He was not supposed to do this. I made it clear from the beginning of this session that he was not to crack my neck. I was in shock, could not even speak.”
Under that immobilized condition, the patient reported, the doctor began the unwanted massaging again.
“He was essentially groping me,” the veteran wrote in his own statement.
When the appointment finally ended, the veteran wrote, “I walked to my car as fast as I could, despite my pain. I went to the gas station bathroom and used multiple sanitary wipes because I felt dirty after that encounter.”
Interviews and written statements by other veterans who sought medical help describe similar experiences.
Moyer, the investigator, also interviewed a doctor who worked with Yates. The doctor said Yates told him, “I’m not able to explore the things I’d like to with some of the guys because I’m a married man and my wife wouldn’t understand.”
Another doctor who is an expert in osteopathic manipulative therapy, the kind of medicine practiced by Yates, said the VA doctor’s methods went beyond the bounds of what is normal practice.
For example, “Generally, OMT is performed on a fully-clothed patient or on a patient with just their shirt removed.”
Also, the expert “opined that, based on his training and experience, slapping a patient on the buttocks is not legitimate medical treatment.”