WASHINGTON — A former Brentwood doctor was sentenced to 13 years in prison Monday for sexually assaulting four female patients, including two women who were patients at a Panorama City clinic.
Superior Court Judge Charles Horan imposed the sentence on Yahya Lavi, 56, during a hearing in Downtown Los Angeles, despite pleas by prosecutors to impose a tougher 37-year prison term.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Beatriz Donoghue, who described Lavi's actions as "reprehensible" and "predatory," said she was satisfied with the sentence.
"I hope this sentence sends a message to medical professionals that if they attempt to abuse their positions by taking sexual advantage of their patients then they can expect to face the same repercussions . . . as this former doctor," Donoghue said in an interview after the hearing.
Donoghue said she hopes Lavi's case also sends a message to female patients to report any sexual assaults they suffer at the hands of medical personnel.
A jury convicted Lavi, a decertified orthopedic surgeon, in April of 10 felony and criminal counts of sexual battery and rape, and penetration with a foreign object when a victim is unconscious of the nature of the act.
Prosecutors alleged that Lavi took advantage of women who sought medical treatment from him as part of the requirements to receive workers' compensation benefits.
Donoghue described all of Lavi's victims as Latinas, born outside this country, with little education. She said the women thought Lavi was following proper medical procedure when he fondled their breasts and vaginas.
"He exploited their lack of familiarity with customs of this country," Donoghue said. "He lured them to his office under the pretense that they needed treatment for serious medical conditions that they did not in fact have."
In one case, Lavi drove one of the women from a medical clinic to his office, where he gave her a pill that made her dizzy and then sexually assaulted her, Donoghue alleged.
Defense attorneys contended that the women made up the rape allegations because the doctor was going to stop signing workers' compensation reports, which allowed them to receive disability payments.
Audrey Winograde, an attorney representing Lavi, said her client maintains his innocence.
"The family is devastated," Winograde said. "The doctor was essentially catatonic (at Monday's hearing). He couldn't speak."
The attorney said Lavi's life was over.
"He no longer has a medical license and he no longer has the respect of his community," Winograde said. "It's as bad as the death penalty."
Donoghue had sought a 37-year prison term for Lavi. However, Judge Horan sided with defense attorneys who cited case law to support their argument that 13 years should be the maximum sentence.
Prosecutors had originally charged Lavi, who worked at several Los Angeles health clinics in addition to his private practice in Brentwood, with 20 counts of drugging, raping and sexually assaulting five women. A jury was unable to reach a decision on counts charging Lavi with drugging some of the women.
Lavi worked at offices in Los Angeles, Panorama City, Lancaster, Long Beach, Covina and Pasadena.