Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center

Drug Rehab Operator Convicted of Sexually Assaulting Clients, Drug Dealing

The former operator of more than a dozen drug treatment and rehab centers in Southern California has been convicted of 31 counts.

KNX Midday News with Chris Sedens
February 26, 2018 - 12:05 pm

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The former operator of more than a dozen Southland drug treatment and rehabilitation centers was convicted today of 31 counts, including the sexual assault or exploitation of seven patients and offering controlled substances.

The panel, however, acquitted Christopher Bathum, 56, on 12 similar counts and deadlocked on three others.

As the first verdict was read -- a finding of guilty to a count of forcible rape -- a woman in the first row of the courtroom clapped loudly and began sobbing. Her friends reached to comfort and calm her and she was allowed to remain in the courtroom as the clerk read the remainder of the verdicts.

In addition to that first count, Bathum was convicted of one count of rape by force of fear, two counts of forcible oral copulation and two counts of sexual penetration by a foreign object -- all with regard to the same victim -- as well as 12 counts of sexual exploitation and 13 counts of offering controlled substances, including methamphetamine and heroin.

The five-man, six-woman jury panel acquitted Bathum of 11 counts of sexual exploitation and one count of offering a controlled substance, methamphetamine.

"Each one is a drug addict," Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller told the jury about Bathum's victims when the trial began. "They were easy targets. They were perfect victims."

Some of the women suffered from shame and hopelessness and Bathum abused the fact that they had "shared some of their most intimate secrets with him," Mueller said.

He gave them drugs as they were trying to break a cycle of addiction and also offered them special privileges.

Defense attorney Carlo A. Spiga told the panel during his opening statement that the rehab centers did a lot of good and credited his client.

He downplayed the assaults, telling jurors, "The evidence is not going to show that any of these acts were forcible."

The defense attorney said he would leave it to the jurors to judge the credibility of the women testifying against Bathum, but also offered comments like, "She knew what she was doing at all times" and "How many of them were hitting him up for money?"

In his closing argument, Spiga said he was "not just passively going to sit here ... and accept this character attack on Mr. Bathum."

The defendant formerly owned and operated 13 "Community Recovery" treatment centers in Los Angeles and Orange counties, as well as six in the state of Colorado.