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California surgeon suspected of raping children since 1997

Appalling allegations: Jailed brain surgeon Dr James Kohut, 57, is now suspected of sexually abusing minors beginning in 1997 and seeking to impregnate women to building ‘sexual families’ 

Disturbing new allegations have emerged against a jailed California brain surgeon accusing him of raping minors for two decades and seeking to impregnate women so he could later have incestuous sex with their children.

Dr James Kohut, a married father-of-two from Santa Cruz, was originally arrested in late May along with his two female nurses, accused of performing sex acts on seven children under the age of 13.

Kohut, 57, has been in jail since May 14, charged with 11 felony counts, including sodomy, lewd acts with children, forcible lewd acts with children, and other related offenses involving at least seven minors.

The surgeon’s nurses Emily Stephens, 29, and Rashel Brandon, 42, who were his lovers, were also arrested last month over alleged sex crimes targeting children.

Brandon was arrested May 9 and charged with 11 felonies involving child sexual abuse as well as multiple charges related to the production of child pornography.

Stephens, who was arrested at her home in Arizona on May 12, was charged with committing sexual penetration, oral copulation, and sodomy against three children.

Last week, Kohut’s defense attorney filed a motion asking a judge to set bail for his release, which prompted Assistant District Attorney Steve Moore to write an opposition to the request detailing a series of shocking allegations against the suspect dating back to at least 1997, as Santa Cruz Sentinel first reported. 

Emily Stephens

Emily Stephens

Rashel Brandon

Rashel Brandon

Nurses Emily Stephens (left), 29, and Rashel Brandon (right), 42, have been arrested and charged with sex crimes against children. The surgeon was having affairs with the two women, who would also film each other ‘committing graphic sex acts together against children’, an arrest warrant states

‘For nearly 20 years, the defendant has had a fixed sexual desire to be part of multiple “taboo families” where the parents raise their children sexually,’ the prosecutor wrote. ‘He has a specific desire to have sex with a mother and a daughter. He then wants to impregnate the daughter and raise the child sexually in the “taboo” family lifestyle.’

According to Moore, multiple law enforcement agencies in several different states, as well as the FBI and Australian Federal Police, have investigated Kohut over the past two decades, but he has never been convicted of any crime.

The prosecutor claimed in his court filing Kohut preferred children between ages 6 and 8, and preyed on children in California, Ohio, Florida, Louisiana, Nevada and Australia.

In one case, according to Moore, Kohut told a woman from Vermont that he had been in a relationship with a mother-of-two from Florida, whom he asked to call him ‘daddy,’ and whose 13-year-old child he fondled.

Kohut allegedly has been using the internet since 1997 to find women to create ‘taboo families,’ wrote Moore. One woman reported in 2001 that the doctor wanted to build a sexual family that would involve bestiality and incest.

Moore said in his opposition-to-bail filing that the surgeon and nurse Brandon had made plans to adopt a child through foster care, or even from Mexico, for the alleged purpose of creating a ‘taboo family.’

Kohut’s defense attorney Jay Rorty claimed in his bail request that his client was not a flight risk and that he posed no danger to the community.

Kohut, pictured in court on Monday, was arrested in May in for allegedly performing sexual acts on seven children under the age of 13, including a three-year-old boy

Kohut, pictured in court on Monday, was arrested in May in for allegedly performing sexual acts on seven children under the age of 13, including a three-year-old boy

Kohut, pictured in court on Monday, was arrested in May in for allegedly performing sexual acts on seven children under the age of 13, including a three-year-old boy

He also maintained that he has seen no evidence tying his client to the sex crimes detailed in court documents, including oral sex with a boy and a girl under age 10, sexual acts with three boys under age 14, among them a 3-year-old, a five-year-old girl and a nine-year-old boy.

Prosecutor Moore countered by claiming in his opposition that Kohut is, in fact, a flight risk and that he is also mentally unstable and suicidal.

If convicted of the charges that have been filed against him so far, Kohut could face a minimum of 165 years in prison. 

The father-of-two surgeon was having affairs with his two nurses, and children were abused during some of the sexual encounters, a warrant issued by the Pima County Sheriff’s Department last month stated.

Police in Watsonville, California, began investigating after Rashel Brandon’s husband found a tape of his wife and Stephens ‘committing graphic sex acts together against the children’ and gave it to authorities, the warrant stated.

The tape was allegedly recorded in a hotel room in March this year.

Brandon, who was the first of the trio to be arrested, confessed to detectives who the second woman in the tape was. At the same time, she also gave investigators information about Kohut’s role in the disturbing ring.

Assistant District Attorney Steven Moore answers questions outside the Judge John Salazar's courtroom regarding Dr. James Kohut on June 19

Assistant District Attorney Steven Moore answers questions outside the Judge John Salazar's courtroom regarding Dr. James Kohut on June 19

Assistant District Attorney Steven Moore answers questions outside the Judge John Salazar’s courtroom regarding Dr. James Kohut on June 19

Brain surgeon James Kohut, who remains at Santa Cruz County Jail on suspicion of raping children, has asked the court to set bail

Brain surgeon James Kohut, who remains at Santa Cruz County Jail on suspicion of raping children, has asked the court to set bail

Rashel Brandon in court

Rashel Brandon in court

‘He wans’t there’: Kohut’s attorney, wrote in his bail request that videos submitted as evidence in the case depict Brandon (right) and Stephens engage in sexual acts with children, but Kohut (left) is not in them

The warrant also provided more detail on the alleged affair between Kohut and the 29-year-old Stephens, which is said to have lasted eight years. 

The document stated the surgeon paid most of the nurses’ bills, before detailing some of the alleged activities the trio took part in. 

The two women would send him copies of the sex tapes, which allegedly involved children, after filming them.

‘Emily had obtained payments from Dr. Kohut. There is also information that Rochelle (sic) traveled to Tucson to meet with Emily on several occasions,’ it stated, KSBW reported in May.

‘It is highly likely that the same sexual abuse occurred in Tucson since both Dr Kohut and Rochelle (sic) traveled to Tucson.’  

Some of the alleged assaults took place between January 2016 and May 9, 2017.

Rorty, Kohut’s attorney, wrote in his bail request that the videos submitted as evidence in the case depict Brandon and Stephens engage in sexual acts with children, but Kohut is not in them.

‘Much of the evidence against Dr. Kohut consists of allegations by Brandon, who has already demonstrated a willingness to lie to investigators regarding her own crimes even when confronted with images evidencing her criminal conduct,’ the defense’s motion stated. 

Prosecutors say Kohut (pictured), has been abusing minors beginning in 1997 and seeking to impregnate women to building 'sexual families'

Prosecutors say Kohut (pictured), has been abusing minors beginning in 1997 and seeking to impregnate women to building 'sexual families'

Prosecutors say Kohut (pictured), has been abusing minors beginning in 1997 and seeking to impregnate women to building ‘sexual families’

Kohut had recently joined Sparks Clinic Neuroscience Center in Fort Smith, Arkansas, after he was fired from his job at Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz for ‘making unwanted sexual advances toward female nurses’.

He was also disciplined in 2002 by the state medical board for watching pornography at work.

The 57-year-old has since been fired by Sparks Clinic, and his license has been suspended in Arkansas.  

Kohut is married and has two college-age children; while Brandon is also married and has three children. They both remain in custody at the Santa Cruz County Jail, while Stephens is being extradited from Arizona to California. 


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