The parents of a former UC Berkeley student have filed suit against a former university doctor, alleging that their son committed suicide because he had been sexually molested by the doctor.
Annie and Mike Stafford, the parents of 23-year-old Elgin Stafford, also named UC Regents in their lawsuit, alleging that the university was negligent in supervising Dr. Robert Kevess.
Kevess, 53, who worked at the university health center for nearly 22 years, was charged last year with several felony counts involving allegations that he sexually assaulted six male patients.
The suit, filed in Alameda County Superior Court on Friday, says Kevess "repeatedly sexually violated and abused" Stafford when he treated for a sexually transmitted disease in 2010, "expertly" manipulating Stafford's feelings to establish trust.
But ultimately, the student's trust "was severely undermined," the complaint says. He "was plagued with nightmares of sexual violation, felt intense shame, humiliation and anger," and developed suicidal feelings. Stafford's body was found floating in the Dominguez Channel in Carson (Los Angeles Count) on March 29.
He died "as a result of the severe emotional trauma he endured at the hands of Kevess," according to the suit, which seeks unspecified damages from Kevess and the university.
"We have great sympathy for the Stafford family but we adamantly deny that any of the alleged conduct by Dr. Kevess caused Elgin Stafford's psychological problems or his death," said defense attorney Robert Beles, adding that the suit doesn't disclose the cause of death or verify that it was ruled a suicide.
However, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County coroner's office said the cause of Stafford's death was drowning and the "mode" was suicide.
The university denied any culpability.
"We're sad to learn about this young man's death but we reject any allegation that UC was negligent in this situation," said spokesman Dan Mogulof. Kevess had passed all of his credentialing reviews, including a review, in June 2010. Seven months later, criminal charges were filed alleging sexual misconduct between March 2006 and February 2011, and he was removed from the health center, Mogulof said.
Kevess resigned from UC Berkeley last year and has given up his medical license.
Kevess hasn't yet had a preliminary hearing, and no trial date has been set. Beles challenged the constitutionality of some of the charges. A judge has upheld the charges, and Beles has appealed. Kevess is free on $745,000 bail.
The attorney who filed the suit on behalf of Stafford's family, Andrew Treger of Los Angeles, was unavailable for comment.
-- Bay City News Service