By STEFANIE DAZIO Associated Press
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The former longtime gynecologist at the University of Southern California was charged Wednesday with sexually assaulting 16 women at the student health center, the first criminal counts in a case that already has seen USC offer to pay $215 million to settle potentially thousands of claims.
Dr. George Tyndall, 72, worked at USC for nearly three decades and news of his arrest on 29 felony charges that could send him to prison for 53 years was welcomed by women who accuse him of misconduct and lawyers representing them.
Daniella Mohazab, who alleges Tyndall assaulted her in 2016, called the arrest "a huge step in moving forward."
“I broke down at work today in tears of happiness that Tyndall is behind bars,” Mohazab said during a news conference with attorney Gloria Allred. “I cannot explain how scared I felt walking around with the thought that I could run into Tyndall at any moment, in a grocery store, coffee shop or park.”
Allred said she is representing two of the 16 women in the criminal case but would not say if Mohazab is one of them.
John Manly, an attorney who represents about 200 of the patients who have sued USC, said his clients were gratified to hear Tyndall has been arrested but are frustrated it took more than a year for charges to be filed.
Tyndall has denied any wrongdoing and his lawyers say his interactions with patients were medically appropriate.
Andrew Flier, one of Tyndall's attorneys, said he and his client were upset that police did not give them a chance to surrender before making the arrest.
"We are very much looking forward to adjudicating this case in a courtroom because of this character assassination," Flier said. "We're going to be able to punch some serious holes in all these allegations."
The allegations against Tyndall surfaced in May 2018, months after the conclusion of the closely watched sexual misconduct case against Larry Nasser, a former sports doctor for Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics. He was accused of sexually assaulting hundreds of women and girls and now is serving decades-long sentences for sexual abuse and possession of child pornography.
Another college gynecologist, Dr. James Heaps, formerly of the University of California, Los Angeles, is facing charges of sexual misconduct involving two patents.
In Tyndall's case, prosecutors say 16 patients ranging from 17 to 29 were abused during visits to the student health center for annual exams or other treatment. Prosecutors and police received reports on 134 alleged crimes and continue to investigate.
Tyndall is charged with 29 felonies, including 18 counts of sexual penetration and 11 counts of sexual battery by fraud. Victims were unaware of what was going on because he led them to believe it served a professional purpose, the criminal complaint states.
Prosecutors recommended bail of about $2 million; arraignment has not been scheduled.
More than 700 women have filed individual civil lawsuits against Tyndall and USC in state court. Separately, USC has agreed to a $215 million class-action settlement with former patients, which would create a fund to pay $2,500 to $250,000 to women who say Tyndall abused them.
As many as 17,000 students and alumnae are eligible, according to the university.
Tyndall's medical license has been suspended since 2018 and he is not allowed to practice medicine, according to the state medical board's website.
Interim USC President Wanda M. Austin said the university has cooperated with authorities.
"We care deeply about our community and our top priority continues to be the well-being of our students, health center patients and university community," Austin said in a statement. "We hope this arrest will be a healing step."
Heaps, the former UCLA gynecologist, appeared in court Wednesday and a preliminary hearing was set for July 30.
He has pleaded not guilty to sexually assaulting two patients in 2017 and 2018.
Attorneys in civil actions against Heaps say they have been contacted by dozens of women for incidents dating to the 1990s. Heaps' lawyer, Tracy Green, maintains the doctor did nothing wrong and women are coming forward based on advertising being done for law firms.
UCLA's investigation began in December 2017, but the university did not alert the campus community about the allegations until Heaps was arrested earlier this month. The school has promised an independent review of its response.
Associated Press writer Natalie Rice contributed to this story.