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Arafiles Pleads Guilty. Justice Prevails.

November 7, 2011 

Rolando Arafiles, Jr., the physician at the center of the Winkler County nurses saga, accepted a plea agreement on November 7 in the Winkler County Courthouse in Kermit, Tex., and ended as far as the courts are concerned a years-long ordeal that seized the emotions of the nursing community across the U.S.  In the plea deal, Arafiles plead guilty to two felony charges of retaliation and misuse of official information for his part in trying to silence two Winkler County nurses who reported him in 2009 to the Texas Medical Board over unsafe practice concerns. Arafiles was sentenced to 60 days in jail, five years of deferred adjudication probation, and will pay a $5,000 fine. He also surrenders on November 11 his license to practice medicine.

Texas Nurses Association is pleased that the judicial system worked and that justice prevailed not only for nursing, but also for all the patients who put their trust in nurses to advocate for their safety. A nurse’s continued ability to advocate for patients without fear of retaliation is the real victor.

 

Tidwell Found Guilty

October 3, 2011

A unanimous verdict of guilty on all counts was returned by the jury in Winkler County Attorney Scott Tidwell's trial.  The jury was then released from service.  The judge will decide the sentence.

Jury Deliberating in Tidwell Trial

October 3, 2011

It's Monday morning, October 3, and the Howard County, Tex., jury for the trial of Winkler County Attorney Scott Tidwell has gone to deliberate a verdict.  It is day six of the trial which began September 26 in Big Spring with jury selection.  Tidwell faces third-degree felony charges of retaliation and misuse of official information, and a misdemeanor charge of official oppression, for his possible involvement in retaliating against two Winkler County nurses who reported a physician to the Texas Medical Board for unsafe practice concerns.  The physician, Rolando Arafiles, awaits trial.

Source: KOSA-TV, www.cbs7kosa.com

Tidwell’s Trial Moved to Howard County

July 28, 2011

The upcoming trial of Winkler County Attorney Scott Tidwell has been moved by a change of venue to Howard County, Tex.  That’s three counties east and one county north of Winkler County.  The trial date has been set for September 26 with a pre-trial hearing set for September 13, according to the Odessa American Online.

Tidwell, who was the prosecutor in Winkler County nurse Anne Mitchell’s 2010 criminal trial for misuse of official information, was indicted by the Texas Attorney General’s Office for his involvement in retaliating against two nurses who reported a physician to the Texas Medical Board for unsafe practice.  Tidwell faces third-degree felony charges of retaliation and misuse of official information, and a misdemeanor charge of official oppression.  A jury found Winkler County nurse Anne Mitchell not guilty.    
 

Winkler County Attorney Tidwell Scheduled for Trial 

June 27, 2011 

Kermit, Tex. – Winkler County Attorney Scott Tidwell declined a plea bargain in late June at a hearing in Kermit relating to criminal charges brought against him for his involvement in the retaliation of the Winkler County nurses Anne Mitchell and Vicki Galle for reporting a physician for patient care concerns.  That news is according to the online report of CBS7 KOSA in Midland.

With the plea bargain declined, Tidwell is scheduled for trial on September 12, 2011; its whereabouts to be determined July 28 in a pre-trial hearing in Kermit.

Having been indicted by the Texas Attorney General’s Office, Tidwell faces charges of third-degree felony for retaliation; third-degree felony for misuse of official information; Class A misdemeanor for official oppression.

 

Winkler County Sheriff Guilty of All Charges

June 14, 2011

Midland, Tex. – A jury has found Winkler County Sheriff Robert Roberts, Jr. guilty of all six charges against him – two felony counts each of retaliation and misuse of official information, and two counts of official oppression, class A misdemeanor counts.  The charges resulted from his involvement in retaliating against two nurses who reported a physician to the Texas Medical Board for unsafe practice.

Roberts was sentenced to four years of probation for each felony count, and 100 days in jail for each felony count, to be served concurrently.  He will also pay a $6,000 fine.   

Roberts was also forced to surrender his peace officer’s license and is automatically removed from office.  Dr. Arafiles, the physician at the heart of the Winkler County nurses ordeal, and Winkler County Attorney Scott Tidwell still await trial on charges of retaliation and misuse of official information.   

 

Verdict Possible Today

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Midland, Tex. – Closing arguments are expected to be delivered today by attorneys in the trial of Robert Roberts, Jr., sheriff of Winkler County. The jury of eight men and four women will deliberate a verdict soon after. Roberts is facing two third-degree felony counts of misuse of official information and a misdemeanor count of official repression for his actions surrounding the Winkler County nurses’ reporting of a physician. A verdict could come back today. 

 

Winkler County Sheriff Roberts Stands Trial

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Midland, Tex. – The trial of Winkler County Sheriff Robert Roberts began June 6 in Midland, Tex.  Roberts is accused of two felony counts of misuse of official information and retaliation, and misdemeanor charges of official oppression, for his actions related to the investigation in 2009 that led to the arrest and firing of two nurses in Winkler County, Tex. who reported a physician to the Texas Medical Board for unsafe practice concerns.  If convicted, Roberts could face 10 years in prison.  He pleaded “not guilty” to all charges.

The trial, now in Day 4, is receiving wide media attention with regular updates from the courtroom.  So far among those called to testify have been former Winkler County nurse Anne Mitchell, former Winkler County Memorial Hospital administrator Stan Wiley, and former hospital physician Dr. Pham who was working at the hospital during the same time as Dr. Rolando Arafiles, the physician reported by the Winkler County nurses.  The trial is expected to last another week.

 

Events of Winkler County Likely to Change Texas Law

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Austin, Tex. -- The Texas Senate Committee on Health and Human Services will hear testimony at the State Capitol on SB 192 – a bill filed this Legislative Session by Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound).  The bill seeks to strengthen Texas law to better protect nurses against retaliation when they advocate for the safety of patients.  It significantly increases financial penalties for retaliation (up to $25,000) and provides nurses with immunity from criminal prosecution.

Testifying in support of the bill will be Anne Mitchell, RN and Vicki Galle, RN, the two women known as the “Winkler County nurses.”   TNA will also provide testimony.

Texas Nurses Association supports this legislation because it knows patients are best served when nurses can advocate for safe patient care without fear of retaliation.  It also favors increased assurance that no other nurses need experience what Mitchell and Galle have.

The hearings are scheduled for approximately 11 a.m. but the order of testimony can be fluid.  The Committee hearing will also be streamed live (audio and video) at www.senate.state.tx.us/bin/live.php and later made available in the Senate archives.

  

Texas Medical Board Rules on Fate of Winkler County Doc’s License

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Texas Medical Board (TMB) handed down its decision on the fate of Dr. Rolando G. Arafiles, Jr.’s medical license.  Potential disciplinary action against Dr. Arafiles’ license to practice medicine in Texas, has been yet another question in the highly publicized controversy that began in Winkler County, Tex., nearly two years ago when two registered nurses anonymously reported him to the TMB over patient care concerns.  

In its ruling, the TMB placed Dr. Arafiles on probation for four years - a technical suspension but one that allows him to continue practicing medicine if he completes some additional training.  He must enroll in and successfully complete a physician evaluation program, be monitored by another physician, pass the Medical Jurisprudence Examination, and submit for review patient records, both medical and billing records.  He was also fined $5,000 in administrative penalties.

For many nurses, the Winkler County controversy called into question the effectiveness of our regulatory system that is intended to protect the public from unsafe care.  The TMB – the state agency that regulates the practice of medicine – investigated the two Winkler County nurses’ report against Arafiles and in late June of 2010, filed a formal complaint against him.  It cited the “…case involves patient harm; one or more violations that involve more than one patient; economic harm to an individual; history of previous discipline with the Board; intentional and knowing conduct; and multiple violations of the Act [Medical Practice Act] and Board rules.” 

For many other nurses, the issue of greatest concern is the retaliation/intimidation of complainant/witnesses against the two Winkler County nurses who first reported Arafiles to the TMB.  The TMB’s disciplinary action taken against Arafiles is only in part based on “…unprofessional or dishonorable conduct that is likely to deceive or defraud the public or injure the public…” 

According to many practicing nurses, retaliation has the potential to silence health care professionals who may have safety concerns about another practitioner’s delivery of care but take no action for fear of reprisals.  Actions of retaliation and intimidation of complainants have the potential for far-reaching, negative effects on patient safety. 

Arafiles also faces third-degree criminal indictments filed by the Texas Attorney General’s Office for retaliation and misuse of official information.  

Texas Nurses Association Comments on Texas Medical Board Ruling of Winkler County physician, Dr. Rolando Arafiles 

“TNA has read with interest the action of the Texas Medical Board against the Winkler County physician, Dr. Rolando Arafiles.  Since the Board has decided to allow Dr. Arafiles to continue to practice medicine, nursing can only hope that it will be diligent in its monitoring of his patient care so that it becomes unquestionably safe.

It is ironic that the two Winkler County nurses who first questioned the safety of Arafiles’ patient care both lost their jobs, while he is allowed to continue with his.  Perhaps most offensive is the retaliation the nurses suffered as a result of their patient advocacy efforts.  Since one of the criminal indictments filed against Arafiles by the Texas Attorney General’s Office is for retaliation, it remains up to our court system to assess the severity of his actions.      

Texas Nurses Association hopes that this case has established that nurses should never again be placed in such a situation in Texas, and that any chilling effect on our safety reporting system is minimal.”
 

More Felony Charges in Winkler County

January 14, 2011

According to news sources, Sheriff Robert Roberts, Winkler County Attorney Scott Tidwell, and former Winkler County Memorial Hospital Administrator Stan Wiley were all indicted by a grand jury on criminal charges related to the Winkler County nurses criminal trial of 2010. 

Sheriff Roberts: third-degree felony charge for retaliation; third-degree felony charge for misuse of official information.
Winkler County Attorney Scott Tidwell: third-degree felony for retaliation; third-degree felony for misuse of official information; Class A misdemeanor for official oppression.  Former Winkler County Memorial Hospital Administrator Stan Wiley: third-degree felony for retaliation.

CBS 7 NEWS reporter Beau Berman reported that Scott Tidwell had told him that he would probably be turning himself in to authorities.

 

Winkler County Doctor Arrested - Sheriff Could be Next 

Beau Berman
CBS 7 News
bberman@cbs7.com
December 22, 2010

KERMIT, TEXAS – A warrant was executed for the arrest of Dr. Rolando Arafiles on Tuesday in connection with charges of “misuse of official information” and “retaliation,” both third degree felonies.

The charges date back to events in late April 2009.

According to reports obtained by CBS7, investigators believe that Dr. Arafiles used his position to get medical information and gave it to the Winkler County Sheriff. The report claims Dr. Arafiles did this so the “complaints” about his medical practices would no longer be raised. In addition, authorities tell CBS7 that Dr. Arafiles caused a criminal investigation to be started, which harmed two people.

Arafiles went before a judge Tuesday in Kermit and was issued “Personal Recognizance” bond, which is essentially a bond of “his word” that he will not leave the area. His passport was confiscated. Dr. Arafiles is a native of the Philippines.

Sheriff Robert Roberts told CBS 7 crews today that he believes he will be arrested next.

The Attorney General’s Office had representatives in Kermit all day Wednesday interviewing hospital board members and other figures in Winkler County.

The official criminal complaint says that “Dr. Arafiles obtained medical information he had access to by virtue of his employment as a public servant, and disclosed it to Sheriff Robert Roberts so that complaints about this medical practices would no longer be raised or pursued, which is not a governmental purpose, knowing that a criminal investigation could, would and did cause harm to the complainants, Anne Mitchell and Vickilyn Galle.”

___________________________________________________________________________

Based on a complaint by the Texas Attorney General’s office, an arrest warrant has been executed against Dr. Rolando Arafiles, MD, the physician who retaliated against the two Winkler County Nurses (Vicki Galle and Anne Mitchell) for reporting him to Texas Medical Board.   Ironically, he is charged with the same offense as Vicki and Anne – misuse of official information.  The following web posting by the local CBS affiliate gives the basic information. 

For more historial information on this subject: Go here.

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