California doctor, nurses charged in child sex abuse ring

In a press conference Thursday afternoon, Watsonville Police Chief David Honda outlined the ongoing investigation of neurosurgeon James Kohut, 57, and nurses Rashel Brandon, 42, and Emily Stephens, 29. Doctor Kohut is a traveling neurosurgeon who has addresses in Fort Smith, Arkansas, Tuscon, Arizona, Merced, California, and Santa Cruz, California. Kohut also is blamed for lewd acts that started January 1, 2016.

Police say the seven alleged victims range in age from 3 to 13.

Doctor James Kohut was in court Wednesday, where prosecutors charged him with 10 felony counts of child abuse. Kohut was arrested Sunday.

“I was due to have surgery from him in two months. Of the 10 charges, six of them involve specific sex acts, committed on children under the age of 10.” said Steve Moore.

Zamora declined to discuss relationships among the defendants and children. Arrest records and court documents also lack such information. Brandon’s protective order, which was filed May 12, prohibits her from having contact with five children as young as 3 years old. A request for Brandon’s bail increase from $100,000 also lists that the accused is a potential flight. She has been separated since February 17, according to court documents.

According to police reports, Rashel Brandon was the first of the trio to be taken into custody at her house in Watsonville on the evening of May 10. “I have not seen a case like this in my career”, Watsonville Police Capt. Jorge Zamora said. In addition to his Santa Cruz residence, he is also associated with one in Tucson, where Stephens lived.

Two women were also charged in the case.

Watsonville Police investigators worked with the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task force to identify Kohut. Police are still investigating and are working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation because the crimes committed did cross state lines.

Johnson declined to comment on any terms of Kohut’s dismissal but said his departure and case has been of interest to news media in Arkansas.

Kohut, whose prior affiliations include the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, was sacked Monday from an Arkansas medical practice, according to The Mercury News. She’s reportedly fighting extradition to California to face charges. “We stand back until that is taken care of and, depending on what happens with that, we could take action with the license”. Brandon was arrested in Watsonville with the warrant issued for Stephens coming from Pima County. The California Santa Cruz County District Attorney says the abuse happened between January of previous year, and this past Monday.

This May 12, 2017, photo provided by Pima County Sheriff’s Department shows suspect Emily Stephens, a nurse living in Tucson, Ariz.

Attorney Anthony Robinson is representing Brandon’s case.

Kohut and Brandon have a court hearing scheduled 8:15 a.m.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to correct the number of children allegedly molested.