Santa Cruz County

Santa Cruz brain surgeon makes first court appearance on child molestation charges

SC brain surgeon makes first court...

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY, Calif. - UPDATE 5/17/17 9:00 p.m.: A Santa Cruz neurosurgeon made his first court appearance Wednesday morning, after being arrested for child sex crimes.

Dr. James Kohut, 57, faces 10 felony charges, including sodomy, oral copulation and forcible lewd act upon five children 14 and under.

"Of the 10 charges, six of them involve specific sex acts committed on children under the age of 10," Deputy District Attorney Steven Moore said.

Each of those six charges carries a life sentence.

The DA’s office said the crimes in Santa Cruz County span almost two years, between January 2016 and May 2017.

On LinkedIn, Kohut currently lists himself as a neurosurgeon with Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz.

In the latest statement, the hospital said, "Dignity Health Dominican Hospital is aware of the allegations and has taken the appropriate steps. In accordance with hospital policy, we cannot comment on personnel matters."

Kohut was also affiliated with the Palo Alto Medical Foundation until the later part of 2016.

This month, he started a new job in Arkansas. Sparks Health Systems in Fort Smith confirmed he was employed for two weeks before his arrest last Sunday.

Kohut is represented by San Jose based attorney Nick Cvietkovich. 

Moore said two other women interconnected with this case have also been arrested.

Rashel Brandon, 42, who listed herself as a nurse at Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz, faces 8 charges, including sodomy and using minor to create sex video.

She was arrested in Watsonville last week.

The DA's office said it’s working to bring a third person to Santa Cruz. Emily Stephens, 29, is currently being held in Pima, Zrizona.

"She has formally denied that she is the person we think that she is. So she is fighting extradition. But we anticipate getting her here as soon as possible," said Moore.

Moore would not share details of the cases or how the three are connected but said the information will come out in court.

"Every case is unique, every case is different. So we just again are looking forward to our opportunity to present our facts in open court," said Moore.

Both Kohut and Brandon are expected to be in court May 26 to set their preliminary hearing dates.

UPDATE 5/17/17 8:15 a.m.: Dr. James Kohut, accused of multiple child sex crimes, made his first court appearance in a Santa Cruz County courtroom Wednesday morning.

Earlier in the week, Santa Cruz County Assistant District Attorney Steve Moore said Kohut would be arraigned on those charges. However, that didn't happen and instead, Kohut's legal representation was established.

Moore said Kohut is accused of 10 child molestation charges, including six counts of sex acts involving children under 10. If convicted, he could face a life sentence for each of those charges. Kohut is also accused of four counts of forcible lewd acts on a child under 14, Moore said. If convicted, those charges each carry a 10 year sentence.

It is believed all of the crimes Kohut is accused of happened in Santa Cruz County and date back to January 2016, Moore said.

Kohut was present in court, represented by his lawyer. After the hearing, his lawyer declined to speak to the media. But during court, the lawyer told the judge his client is a brain surgeon and the accusations aren't true.

Moorse said Kohut's arraignment could happen on May 26. A preliminary hearing will also be scheduled at that time.

On Linkedin, Kohut lists himself as having worked for Palo Alto Medical Foundation as an attending neurosurgeon in Santa Cruz from 2008-2015. However, Sutter Health said he hasn't worked for the organization since 2016.

Two more people are facing child sexual assault charges in connection to Kohut's case. Moore said Rashel Brandon, 42, is also accused of child sex crimes. Brandon lists herself as working for Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz as a nurse. She was arrested in Watsonville on Tuesday, according to court documents.

Moore said a third person, Emily Joy Stephens, 29, of Pima, Arizona has also been arrested and is currently fighting her extradition to Santa Cruz County.

UPDATE 5/16/17 11:21 a.m.: According to the Santa Cruz County District Attorney's Office, formal charges against Dr. James Kohut are in the process of being filed.

Kohut is expected to be arraigned on Wednesday.

UPDATE 5/15/17 5:43 p.m.: A local brain surgeon and nurse in Santa Cruz County, are facing child sex charges, after police say both were arrested last week.
    
Investigators aren't saying whether there's a connection between the two arrests. But both list themselves as employees at Dominican Hospital on social profiles.

On Monday, Watsonville police said Dr. James Kohut, 57, was arrested early Sunday morning in Santa Cruz and was taken to the Santa Cruz County Jail on charges that cross state lines. He’s being held without bail.
    
The Santa Cruz County District Attorney's Office said Kohut is accused of child molestation including molestation of a child 10-years-old or younger, molestation of a child 14-years-old or younger and forcible molestation of a child. He could face a life sentence. 

Police said they're working with the FBI and the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force on this case.
    
According to online records, Kohut works for Dignity Health Dominican Hospital and was formerly employed by Palo Alto Medical Foundation.
    
Police said a community member of the community alerted authorities about the crimes about a week ago.

"Last Tuesday, we received information regarding sexual abuse that occurred here within the County of Santa Cruz. Stemming from the initial portion of the investigation, we learned that there were violations that crossed state lines. As the investigation continued, there were three individuals that were arrested," said Detective Naim Figueroa.
    
Watsonville police said Rashel Brandon, 42, was arrested last Tuesday in Watsonville on multiple sexual assaults against children.
    
She also lists herself as working for Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz as a nurse. Court records show she was arraigned on Friday.
    
On Monday, Dominican Hospital issued a statement:
    
"Dignity Health Dominican Hospital is aware of the allegations and has taken the appropriate steps. In accordance with hospital policy, we cannot comment on personnel matters."
    
Again, police are not saying if these cases are connected and they plan to release more information on Thursday.

PREVIOUS STORY: A Santa Cruz doctor has been arrested in a child molestation case, according to the Watsonville Police Department.

On Monday, Captain Jorge Zamora said Dr. James Kohut was arrested early Sunday morning in Santa Cruz on charges tied to a case that crosses state lines.

According to the Santa Cruz County District Attorney's Office those charges include molestation of a child 10-years-old or younger, molestation of a child 14-years-old or younger and forcible molestation of a child. The first offense carries a possible life sentence if convicted, according to Assistant District Attorney Steve Moore.

Two other people have been arrested, but their names are not being released to protect the integrity of the case, according to Zamora.

Kohut is being held in the Santa Cruz County Jail without bail, Moore said.

On Linkedin, Kohut lists himself as having worked for Palo Alto Medical Foundation as an attending neurosurgeon in Santa Cruz from 2008-2015. However, Sutter Health said he hasn't worked for the organization since 2016.

According to U.S. News & World Report, Kohut is affiliated with Dominican Hospital, received his medical degree from Albany Medical College and has been in practice for more than 20 years, specializing as a brain surgeon.

A Dominican Hospital spokesperson issued this statement:

"Dignity Health Dominican Hospital is aware of the allegations and has taken the appropriate steps. In accordance with hospital policy, we cannot comment on personnel matters."

No information about this victims is being made available, but the Watsonville Police Department said it plans to release more information on Thursday.


comments powered by Disqus