LOS ANGELES - The criminal case was dismissed Friday against George Tyndall, a former longtime USC campus gynecologist who was found dead last year in his Los Angeles home while awaiting trial on sex-related charges involving 16 patients who accused him of inappropriate behavior under the guise of medical exams.
Two of the alleged victims and three other women who claim they were abused by Tyndall spoke after Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler granted the defense's request to dismiss the case based on Tyndall's death from natural causes last October, with one of the alleged victims saying that she is "overcome with grief and it's not for Tyndall."
One of Tyndall's attorneys, Leonard Levine, told the judge that his client had "always maintained his innocence," and that it was a "tragedy" for Tyndall and all of the other involved parties that there wouldn't be a trial.
"It's for the opportunity for justice that I'll never see and neither will any of his victims," one of the alleged victims said. "This whole process has been a huge disappointment. It dragged on for over five years and instead of justice for a multitude of victims we were re-traumatized over and over only for Tyndall to take USC's secrets with him to the grave."
George Tyndall, the former USC campus gynecologist charged with sexually assaulting 16 patients over the course of seven years appears in Los Angeles Superior Court with his attorney Andrew Flier for arraignment July 1, 2019 in Los Angeles, Californi
Another of the alleged victims said she was in court to say that "justice delayed has become justice denied."
"... Now there's no justice for me, for all my fellow charged victims and for all of those who so bravely have come forward," she said, adding that the only sense of justice they have now is to "stop this from ever happening again" and "stop powerful institutions from protecting predators by holding not only the institutions accountable but also the decision-makers."
The judge -- who waited until the death certificate was presented to dismiss the charges -- noted that he "cannot take a position" on the case. But he told the alleged victims, "I feel terribly that you didn't get what you were seeking."
The County of Los Angeles Medical Examiner concluded that Tyndall died from heart disease, with diabetes playing a contributing factor in his death.
PREVIOUS COVERAGE: George Tyndall, ex-USC gynecologist accused of sexual abuse, dead at 76
Tyndall was discovered dead after a close friend who talked with Tyndall every day was unable to reach him, used a key to get into his Los Angeles condominium, where he lived alone, and found the 76-year-old man unresponsive last Oct. 4, Levine said last year.
The medical examiner's office initially issued a statement saying that it did not plan to perform an autopsy because "there was a history of natural disease that explains Mr. Tyndall's sudden death with no suspicious circumstances for foul play, suicide or toxins playing a role in his death."
But the medical examiner's office confirmed the next week that it had performed an examination on Tyndall and deferred the case of his death, which authorities announced last month was classified as "natural" causes.
Tyndall died less than two months after the judge ruled there was sufficient evidence to require him to stand trial on 18 felony counts of sexual penetration of an unconscious person -- charges that allege the women were "unconscious of the nature of the act" and that it served "no professional purpose" -- along with nine felony counts of sexual battery by fraud.
The criminal complaint alleges that the crimes occurred between 2009 and 2016.
The women had gone to USC's student health center for annual examinations or other treatment while Tyndall was working there.
Eight charges involving five other women were dismissed earlier because four of them opted not to proceed and one could not be contacted.
Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller told the judge during the hearing in August that Tyndall was employed at a prestigious university and that the patients -- often as young as 18, 19 or 20 -- "trust in this guy" and "believe what he is doing is appropriate."
"That's how he gets away with this. ... In their mind, they think what's being done is correct," the prosecutor said, adding that Tyndall's patients were "unable to resist" because they were not aware of the nature of what Tyndall was doing.
Levine countered that many patients were not comfortable with the way Tyndall spoke to them, but said he believed their perception of Tyndall changed to the acts being viewed as "sexual in nature" rather than a standard gynecological examination after a Los Angeles Times article about alleged wrongdoing by the former campus gynecologist.
The defense lawyer told the judge that he believed the investigation into the alleged crimes was "totally lacking," saying that the defense maintains that the examinations were done for a legitimate medical purpose.
Tyndall planned to testify in his own defense during the trial, Levine told reporters outside court after the dismissal of the case.
In March 2021, attorneys representing hundreds of women who claim they were sexually abused by Tyndall announced an $852 million settlement of lawsuits against the university, describing the resolution as the largest of its type ever against a university.
In January 2020, a federal judge in Los Angeles granted final approval of a $215 million class-action settlement between USC and some of the women who claim they were sexually abused by Tyndall.
The settlement provides all class members -- about 17,000 former patients who received women's health services from Tyndall -- compensation of $2,500 and up. Patients willing to provide further details about their experience could be eligible for additional compensation up to $250,000.
Attorneys for some victims have argued that following an internal investigation of complaints against Tyndall in 2016, the university paid Tyndall a substantial financial settlement so he would quietly resign.
USC officials had repeatedly denied allegations of a cover-up relating to Tyndall and have said that in response to the scandal, new protocols were implemented at its student health center to ensure any complaints are investigated and resolved by appropriate university officials and authorities. The university also said it has hired female, board-certified physicians and introduced patient education materials about sensitive examinations.
After the March 2021 settlement, USC President Carol Folt released a statement in which she said, "I am deeply sorry for the pain experienced by these valued members of the USC community. We appreciate the courage of all who came forward and hope this much-needed resolution provides some relief to the women abused by George Tyndall."
Tyndall surrendered his medical license in September 2019, according to records from the Medical Board of California.
Three other women who said their alleged abuse occurred outside the statute of limitations for any charges to be filed were in the downtown Los Angeles courtroom for Friday's hearing, including one who said that the victims named in the charges "represented and stood for all of us who had seen him so long ago."
"The full measure of justice in this case would have come from him being tried, found guilty and incarcerated, and that's something we were all denied," the woman said. "It's very hard to reconcile how this case took so long. ... To walk out of court today without a conviction is very sad and I just want the court to know that."
Another woman who alleged that Tyndall abused her more than three decades ago said she spoke up that day on the way out of her appointment and was told that he was a "great doctor." She said she believed the criminal trial "would be our chance to have a small measure of justice."
The third woman said, "I think we all here feel very strongly that there was collusion by other parties to keep this a secret for decades, and I only hope that there is more of an investigation into what happened beyond this criminal case so this never happens again."
Outside court, Levine told reporters that Tyndall had "adamantly denied his guilt in this case from the very beginning" and that the defense is "very disappointed that this case was not tried to a conclusion."
He said that Tyndall had planned to testify in his own defense and that his side of the story will never be heard now.
"I understand the other side and those alleged victims are disappointed as well. So let's just say both sides were deprived of a trial that would have hopefully shed some light on some of the issues here, particularly Dr. Tyndall's alleged role in this case," the defense attorney said, noting that the prosecution did not indict Tyndall in a move that would have moved the case closer to trial sooner.
"Both sides wanted this case to go to trial and it would have proceeded to trial very soon, probably this year, had Dr. Tyndall not suddenly died," Levine said. "And you should understand none of us had any advance warning that Dr. Tyndall had a terminal disease or was seriously ill, so this came as a shock to everybody -- both sides."
Another of Tyndall's attorneys, Andrew Flier, said he doesn't think he's ever had a client "who wanted to have his day in court more than Dr. Tyndall," noting that his client was presumed to be innocent. He maintained that Heaps was "not taking any secrets to the grave."