The jury found Christopher Bathum, 56, guilty of 31 counts, including forcible rape, sexual penetration by a foreign object, and forcible oral copulation, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. The jury deadlocked on three additional counts, and Bathum was cleared of 12 others.
Bathum, who has no health background or education, will have a sentencing hearing on April 17 and can be punished with up to 65 years in state prison for his crimes.
During the trial, Bathum’s attorney attempted to smear the accusers, who were in their 20s and 30s. He described the charges as a “character attack” on the defendant.
Bathum founded about 20 rehabilitation facilities in Southern California and Colorado, with some offering patients swanky accommodations, such as a pool, yoga, and private chefs.
But he manipulated the trust of his patients at these facilities, according to BuzzFeed News reporter Brianna Sacks, who cited court documents. Bathum provided them drugs, instructed them how to pass drug tests, and allowed them to use company cars while depicting himself as a trustworthy figure to women struggling to recover from addiction.
Bathum will return to court on Tuesday for another case, in which he is accused of money laundering, grand and identity theft, and insurance fraud related to the financial methods of this company. Prosecutors allege he submitted $175 million in false claims.
While Bathum’s case is clearly a repulsive manipulation of power, the broader trend of abuse in rehab centers is much more disturbing. Southern California has a high concentration of rehab centers, with more than 1,100 facilities, and the leading complaint from clients is sexual misconduct. The Southern California News Group reported that state regulators have investigated 78 sexual misconduct allegations at rehab facilities since 2015.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Jason Lee