Bail set at $6.4M for Santa Cruz County surgeon charged with child rape

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ByMatt Keller KGO logo
Wednesday, June 28, 2017
Bail set at $6.4M for South Bay doctor charged with child rape
Despite objections from prosecutors, a judge has granted bail for a prominent South Bay surgeon who's charged with 11 counts of sex crimes against children that could bring a sentence of 165 years to life if convicted.

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (KGO) -- There are new developments in the case of the Santa Cruz surgeon accused of sexually assaulting children. Despite objections from prosecutors, a judge granted bail for Dr. James Kohut. And for the first time on Wednesday morning, we saw one of the nurses accused of being an accomplice to the crime.

Protesters were out in front of the courthouse on Wednesday morning to let the judge know they did not want this man released on bail, but they ended up walking away disappointed.

It was a contentious bail hearing in Santa Cruz Superior Court for Kohut.

RELATED: Santa Cruz doctor faces 10 child molestation charges; 2 women charged

"You can't just pick a number," said Judge John Salazar. "Somebody has to come up with some sort of calculations."

The prosecution asked Salazar to set bail at $40 million.

Kohut is charged with 11 counts of sex crimes against children that could bring a sentence of 165 years to life if convicted.

Deputy District Attorney Steven Moore argued the neurosurgeon was a flight risk and has substantial assets.

LINK: Prosecutors opposition to bail document

Defense attorney Jay Rorty asked for a $1 million bail.

But in the end, Salazar set bail at $6,450,000.

If Kohut is released on bail, he would be under house arrest with GPS monitoring, limits on internet access and a no contact order with potential witnesses and alleged victims.

"We definitely appreciate the court's analysis," said Moore. "But none the less, we are concerned that that may not be suffiienct to protect the public."

Rashel Brandon was also in court Wednesday morning. She faces similar charges related to Kohut and already had bail set at $500,000.

Rashel Brandon appeared in court in Santa Cruz, Calif. on Wednesday, June 28, 2017.

The judge approved a motion from the attorney general's office denying her ability to practice as a registered nurse until the case is completed.

Salazar also approved a joinder motion to bring her case together with Kohut for the time being.

Her defense attorney, Anthony Robinson, says Kohut and Brandon met at Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz.

"There was a dating relationship," he said. "I don't know the length of time, but it hasn't been all that lengthy."

LINK: Read the criminal complaint filed against Doctor James Kohut

Robinson says Brandon has had traumatic events and abuse in her past and suffered from PTSD; something that may be a factor in this case.

"This is certainly something that Mr. Kohut has had a significant amount of impact in her life," said Robinson. "This certainly isn't something Ms. Brandon had been involved with ever in the past. And clearly what we're hearing about Mr. Kohut, this is something that is his MO throughout a significant period of history."

Prosecutors are still in the process of extraditing the other defendant in this case, Emily Stephens, from Arizona. They're hoping to have her in Santa Cruz County for the next court date that's scheduled for July 27.