Christopher Bathum founded 19 drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers in Southern California
A self-described “Rehab Mogul” was convicted of sexually assaulting seven patients in the California rehabilitation centers he ran, prosecutors said Monday.
A Los Angeles jury deliberated for about a day before finding Christopher Bathum, 56, guilty of 31 criminal counts, including forcible rape, sexual penetration by foreign object, forcible oral copulation and sexual exploitation.
Bathum, who founded 19 drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers, was also found guilty of 13 counts of offering controlled substances to clients, including methamphetamine and heroin, the Orange County Register reports.
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Bathum faces a maximum sentence of 65 years in state prison and lifetime on the sex offender registration.
Prosecutors said Bathum preyed upon female patients, mostly in their 20s and early 30s, between 2014 and 2016 by plying them with drugs as they fought to overcome their addictions. He then sexually assaulted them while they were under the influence.
“They were easy targets,” Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller said in closing arguments, according to the Register. “They were perfect victims.”
Several of the assaults occurred at the “Community Recovery” treatment facilities that he ran in Los Angeles and Orange counties.
Bathum also allegedly took drugs with some patients, taught them how to pass drug tests and offered perks such as internships, company cars and use of iPhones in exchange for sex, the Register reports.
Prior to the trial, Bathum’s attorney, Carlo A. Spiga, downplayed the assault allegations leveled at his client and questioned the credibility of some of the women testifying against him.
The “evidence is not going to show that any of these acts were forcible,” Spiga said during opening statements, the Register reports.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department began its investigation in May of 2016 after authorities were tipped off to allegations of sexual misconduct at his treatment facilities.
“Christopher loves to save his patients’ lives from the clutches of addiction,” Bathum’s now-defunct website, christopherbathum.co, stated. “He understands what a successful treatment must be like because he has helped others achieve it.”
In June 2016, ABC’s 20/20 aired an episode on Bathum and the accusations leveled against him. One of his alleged victims, Amanda Jester, said that Bathum allegedly sexually assaulted her in a sweat lodge at his Malibu, California, facility and later in a Four Seasons hotel room.
“I have no credit card, no money, no cellphone — I felt like I had no choice,” Jester, who chose to identify herself, told 20/20.
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Another woman alleged Bathum overdosed on heroin and methamphetamine after a drug-fueled night at a Malibu motel with her and two of his other clients.
But Bathum denied all of their claims to ABC.
Bathum was acquitted of 11 counts of sexual exploitation and one count of offering a controlled substance, methamphetamine. The jury also deadlocked on one count of rape by use of drugs and two counts of sexual penetration by a foreign object, the Orange County Register reports.
It was not immediately clear if Bathum plans to appeal his convictions. His sentencing is scheduled for April 17.