WATSONVILLE — Three people are in custody, including a Santa Cruz doctor and a nurse, and face multiple charges that include lewd acts on a child in a case that involves the FBI and Internet Crimes Against Children.

Santa Cruz neurosurgeon James Joel Kohut, 57, was arrested early Sunday morning and potentially faces three potential charges that include lewd acts on a child and using force in a lewd act against a child.

Rashel Brandon faces 11 felony counts that include lewd acts on a child, oral copulation with a child and production of child pornography, jail records showed. She was arrested May 11, and pleaded not guilty to eight charges on May 12.

kohut doctor 5-16
brandon nurse 5-16

It was not clear Monday whether the two cases are connected. Law enforcement officials and prosecutors declined to comment on that matter.

The Watsonville Police Department will release more information in a press conference Thursday.

Kohut was booked into Santa Cruz County Jail, where he is being held without bail, jail records showed.

Brandon was being held in lieu of $500,000 bail, jail records showed.

Law enforcement officials investigating the case have not named the other people involved in the case.

Prosecutors are reviewing the evidence against Kohut, and will make a decision whether or not to file charges within 24 hours, Santa Cruz County Assistant District Attorney Steve Moore said late Monday morning.

Watsonville Police Department is investigating the case because it was the first agency to receive a call about it, Watsonville Police Lt. Jorge Zamora said.

Kohut was disciplined in 2006 by the California Medical Board for “repeated negligent acts,” state records show.

He has worked for Dominican Hospital and for Sutter Maternity and Surgery Center of Santa Cruz.

In a statement to this newspaper, Dominican spokeswoman Felicity Simmons said, “Dignity Health Dominican Hospital is aware of the allegations, and has taken the appropriate steps. In accordance with hospital policy, we cannot comment on personnel matters.”

Sutter spokeswoman Meg Walker said that Kohut has not worked for the organization since 2016.

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