Veteran Texas Sheriff Sentenced To Jail In Nurse Retaliation Case

Winkler County Sheriff Robert Roberts, Jr. (File)

MIDLAND (June 14, 2011)-- Winkler County Sheriff Robert L. Roberts, Jr., will spend time behind bars after he was convicted Tuesday in Midland on all six counts in a case involving retaliation against two nurses who sent an anonymous complaint to state regulators about a doctor who was Roberts’ friend.

In an agreement reached at the close of the trial’s punishment phase Tuesday, Roberts, 56, was sentenced to 100 days in jail on each of four felony counts, fined $6,000 on four felony and two misdemeanor counts, and was sentenced to four years felony probation on two counts each of misuse of official information and retaliation.

He will be removed from office and must surrender his Texas peace officer’s license.

Roberts was accused of retaliating against the nurses after they sent an unsigned letter to the Texas Medical Board about Dr. Rolando Arafiles Jr. in 2009.

The nurses, who alleged Arafiles was endangering patients at Winkler County Memorial Hospital in Kermit, were later fired and then were indicted.

One was acquitted and the charges against the other were dropped.

The two, Anne Mitchell and Vickilyn Galle, wrote to the state medical regulators detailing their concerns about Arafiles, including his alleged use of herbal remedies and attempt to use hospital supplies to perform at-home procedures.

They claimed he was unethical and risking patients' health.

Authorities said that once Arafiles learned the medical board was looking into a complaint filed against him, he went to Roberts and asked him to investigate who sent the letter.

Roberts was accused of asking for and getting the anonymous letter from the Texas Medical Board and then using it to track down the nurses behind the complaint.

The letter was to have been used only in a criminal investigation of Arafiles.

Instead, prosecutors said, he shared the complaints with Arafiles and the hospital’s administrator.

Later, prosecutors said, Roberts obtained a search warrant and found information on the nurses’ computers that confirmed they were the source of the confidential complaints.

A prosecutor told jurors in closing arguments Tuesday that Roberts’ investigation was "heinous" and clearly retaliatory.

Defense attorneys, however, told jurors that prosecutors had not proven Roberts knowingly and intentionally broke the law.

In March, Stan Wiley, who was the administrator of Winkler County Memorial Hospital in Kermit when the two nurses were unsuccessfully prosecuted, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of abuse of official capacity and was sentenced to 30 days in jail.

The women sued the county and accepted a $750,000 settlement after they were cleared.

Their case attracted national attention and support from around the U.S.

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