SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A Watsonville brain surgeon has agreed to give up his state medical license while he faces charges of sexually abusing children.
Dr. James Kohut agreed to the suspension, electronic monitoring and staying off the internet in addition to other conditions in exchange for bail, according to court documents.
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A judge on Monday agreed to release Kohut on bail. But he said he will set the amount at a June 28 hearing and the doctor will remain in custody until then.
Kohut was arrested on May 14 and charged with 10 counts of sex abuse. In unsuccessfully arguing against bail, prosecutors say the doctor sought to impregnate women to create more victims, though there’s no evidence he succeeded.
Several women who had relationships with Kohut said he wanted to have children with them to create ” ‘taboo’ families where the parents raise their children sexually,” Assistant District Attorney Steven Moore said in court documents.
Moore also wrote that the FBI, Santa Cruz Sheriff’s Office and police in Australia previously investigated Kohut.
Santa Cruz Sheriff’s Sgt. Chris Clark confirmed that the department did open an investigation, but declined to discuss details.
FBI spokeswoman Katherine Zackel said the FBI is assisting Watsonville police investigation and declined to discuss the agency’s previous involvement with Kohut.
Kohut’s attorney Jay Rorty argued in court Monday that the previous FBI investigation was a sting operation in which Kohut says was guilty only of a “thought crime” and had not acted on sexual compulsions, The Santa Cruz Sentinel reported.
Rorty didn’t respond to a call for commenrt Tuesday.
Moore said prosecutors recently put in an additional sex abuse charge after a Louisiana woman came forward and alleged Kohut abused her in 2004 when she was 13 years old.
After Kohut’s arrest was widely reported, a Facebook user forwarded to investigators a Louisiana woman’s 2015 post calling the brain surgeon a “pedophile,” court documents show.
Moore said the woman’s mother and Kohut struck up an online relationship and that the doctor paid for the two to fly from Baton Rouse to Santa Cruz for five days, putting them up in a motel. The woman, identified as G.R. in court records, told investigators that Kohut sexually assaulted her one evening when her mother was passed out.
G.R.s allegations were added after Kohut pleaded not guilty to 10 other charges of sexually assaulting children.
Police on May 14 arrested Kohut in his Santa Cruz home four days after officers arrested Rashel Brandon, a nurse he worked with at a local hospital.
Brandon’s husband had turned over to police a video he found that court documents say show Brandon and another nurse, Emily Stephens, sexually abusing three children. Police then seized Brandon’s phone, which court documents say shows Stephens sexually abusing a child and a male’s voice can be heard off camera. Police also say they found three photographs with a note saying “James Kohut made me do this.”
In court papers arguing for bail, Kohut’s attorney says the doctor doesn’t appear in either video recording or the photographs.
“There is no indication that law enforcement is in possession of any video or photographic evidence of Dr. Kohut committing such crimes,” Rorty writes. “Much of the evidence against Dr. Kohut consists of allegations by Brandon, who has already demonstrated a willingness to lie to investigators regarding her own crimes even when confronted with images evidencing her criminal conduct.”
Brandon’s public defender, Anthony Robinson, didn’t return a call Tuesday.
He was arrested in May shortly after he began working at an Arkansas hospital. The hospital fired him, and Arkansas regulators suspended his license in that state.
Kohut faces 165 years in prison if convicted.
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