Former VA doctor sentenced to 25 years in prison for sexually abusing patients

BECKLEY, W.Va. — A former doctor employed by the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Beckley has been sentenced to 25 years in prison for sexual abuse of patients.

U.S. District Judge Frank W. Volk sentenced Jonathan Yates, 52, of Bluefield, Virginia, to 300 months in prison and three years of supervised release Monday afternoon in Beckley.

Volk told Yates he caused the physical pain and embarrassment of multiple veterans and had victims thinking about taking their own lives.

“I was puzzled and sometimes shocked at the lack of remorse, the explanations at some point that didn’t make sense. I am left with the conclusion that he (Yates) has not yet come to grips with the harm or wrongdoing that is present in this case,” Volk said to the courtroom.

Yates pleaded guilty last September to three counts of depriving veterans of their civil rights under the color of law by sexually abusing them. Yates admitted to rubbing the genitals of two veterans and digitally penetrating a third person’s rectum without any legitimate medical purpose.

Jonathan Yates

Yates was indicted in May 2020 for sexually molesting six patients from September 2018 to February 2019.

The veterans were seeking treatment for chronic pain through osteopathic manipulative therapy, yet Yates’ actions caused additional pain.

Several veterans addressed the court at sentencing, describing the trauma and mental anguish that Yates had caused them. Yates surrendered his medical licenses as a condition of his plea agreement.

One victim said Monday was a day they were looking forward to but dreading at the same time.

“It’s like waking up from a nightmare only to realize you were never dreaming. You were always awake,” the victim said.

Another victim told the courtroom that Yates would brag to other doctors about his actions. The victim, like the handful of others that spoke, wished the maximum sentence upon Yates.

“I hope you get everything you get in federal prison. I hope every day you wake up, you remember me. You’re a sick devilish man. You’re sick and you’re proud of it,” the victim said as he turned to Yates.

Yates apologized to the courtroom Monday for “any of the pain I have caused to those who have suffered harm.”

“I have spent months soul searching. I have also spent time praying. Praying that each of you who are hurt or afraid would find peace and personal healing,” Yates said.

Deputy Assistant Attorney General Gregory B. Friel of the Civil Rights Division said in a release, “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.

“It is a testament to the bravery of our veterans that so many came forward to bring this defendant to justice.”

U.S. Attorney Michael Stuart for the Southern District of West Virginia called the sentencing significant with 300 months but said it was justice for Yates.

U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart

“It doesn’t make me happy that someone gets 300 months. But I believe in justice. I think it’s important in this case that a strong statement was laid. 300 months is a strong statement of personal accountability, responsibility that every person has to society.”

The case was investigated by the FBI, the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General, and the Veterans Affairs Police Department. The case was 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.

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