UPDATE: A spokesperson for the Beckley VA Medical Center has released a statement in response to the multi-million dollar settlement with victims who say they were sexually abused by former Doctor Jonathan Yates:
“VA is fully committed to ending sexual harassment, sexual assault and domestic violence. This physician’s behavior was intolerable. The Beckley VA Medical Center will not stand such behavior and is committed to keeping Veterans, their families, and caregivers safe.”
BECKLEY, W.Va. (WVVA) Nearly two years after breaking the story of a doctor under investigation for sexually abusing veteran patients at the Beckley VA Medical Center, WVVA News has learned a settlement has been reached.
The Beckley VA Medical Center will be paying out more than 10 million dollars in settlement funds to the 62 patients who say they were sexually abused by former doctor Jonathan Yates at the hospital.
New, Taylor, and Associates confirmed the settlement on Friday. While Stephen New's firm represented 56 of the patients, an additional six were represented by Eric Buckner and Mark Staun. New said his firm believed the value to be a lot more, but the amount was capped under the state's malpractice code.
One of the veterans in the case agreed to an on-camera interview on Friday. While she would prefer to keep her name out of the news, she told WVVA News there is no price that can be put on the pain Yates caused veterans.
"While it has affected me, I know it has affected others much deeper and much worse."
She said it was the crime but also the efforts to keep it quiet that continue to trouble her today. "They settled out of court to keep it quiet so it wouldn't have to be talked about in the courtroom."
While the civil and criminal portions of the case are over, New said he would still like to see the results of the VA Office of the Inspector General's investigation. He also believes Congressional hearings by Senators Capito and Manchin are warranted.
"We did what we set out to do. Jonathan Yates is in jail hopefully for the rest of his life. He doesn't have a medical license. He will never have a medical license. And we got the veterans compensation for the horrible things they went through."
The Beckley VA Medical Center's Chief of Staff at the time, Dr. Mark Harris, has since moved on from his position at the hospital to be the new Chairman of the West Virginia Republican Party. In a phone interview with WVVA News on Friday, Dr. Harris said that while he was involved in the hiring of Yates, it was the Whole Health Dept., overseen by the chief nurse, that made the final call on the hire. He said the Whole Health Dept. was also the only department not under his supervision and that the department was also responsible for complaints on the doctor.
Still, New questions whether protocols were followed.
"Despite what some like Dr. Harris have said that everything was done according to protocol, that's not so," said New. "There needs to be an investigation into where the breakdowns occurred, how he was able to come on and kept on once some of the veterans started to come forward."
Now, nearly two years later, those veterans who feel they were silenced are finally getting a measure of justice.
"They (the V.A.) didn't do anything," said the veteran who interviewed with WVVA News. "The same people kept complaining and it took him coming to see you to break it wide open."
WVVA News reached out to the Beckley VA Medical Center on Friday morning. However, they could not be immediately reached for comment.
BECKLEY, WV (WVVA) -- A former doctor at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Beckley pleaded guilty Thursday, to three counts of depriving veterans of their civil rights under color of law by sexually abusing them.
Jonathan Yates, 51, of Bluefield, Virginia, was previously indicted on five counts of depriving veterans of their civil rights under color of law, and two counts of abusive sexual contact.
At a plea hearing Thursday, 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.'
According to plea documents, the veterans had sought treatment from Yates to 'manage chronic pain through osteopathic manipulative therapy.'
“This doctor abused his position of trust by preying on veterans who came to him for medical treatment,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division. “As this prosecution demonstrates, he will now be held accountable for using his position as a VA physician to deceive and molest his patients.”
“By virtue of today’s plea agreement, Yates stands convicted of heinous criminal acts committed against military veterans who served our country honorably and with great sacrifice,” said U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart for the Southern District of West Virginia. “Throughout this matter, from the commencement of this investigation to today’s plea, our focus has been on seeking justice for these veterans by holding Yates accountable for these terrible acts.”
“What occurred at the Beckley VA Medical Center is particularly despicable because this abuse was at the hands of a doctor who was entrusted with providing compassionate and supportive care to veterans,” said VA Inspector General Michael J. Missal. “The result today was due to the tireless and dedicated efforts of the VA OIG investigators and our law enforcement partners. This doctor will no longer be able to prey on the trust of those who have dedicated their lives in service to our nation.”
Yates is scheduled for sentencing on Jan. 4, 2021. He faces a statutory maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.