DALLAS (CN) – A West Texas sheriff was convicted Tuesday of retaliating against two nurses who complained to the state medical board about a doctor they worked with, who was the sheriff’s friend.
Winkler County Sheriff Robert Roberts, 56, was convicted in Midland State Court of retaliation and misuse of official information, both felonies, and official oppression, a misdemeanor.
In an agreement reached with prosecutors at the close of the punishment phase of his trial, Roberts was sentenced to 4 years of felony probation and 100 days in jail on the official information and retaliation charges, and fined $6,000.
A 20-year veteran as sheriff, Roberts will be removed from office and surrender his peace officer’s license.
Prosecutors accused Roberts of retaliating against the nurses after they sent an unsigned letter to the Texas Medical Board about Dr. Rolando Arafiles, a physician who worked with the nurses at the Winkler County Memorial Hospital in Kermit.
The nurses complained that Arafiles was endangering patients. They were fired and then indicted “for alleged criminal conduct they did not commit,” the Texas attorney general said in a statement Tuesday.
One nurse was acquitted and charges were dropped against the other.
“Under Texas law, complaints filed against physicians with the Texas Medical Board are confidential,” the Attorney General’s Office said in its statement. “However, after Dr. Arafiles was notified about the complaints filed against him, Sheriff Roberts requested copies of the confidential complaints, which included the complainants’ names.”
Former hospital administrator Stan Wiley pleaded guilty in March to related charges. He admitted he improperly fired the nurses after they filed the complaints. Wiley was sentenced to 30 days in the county jail in a plea agreement.
During Roberts’ trial, Assistant Attorney General David Glickler told jurors that Roberts had improperly shared the confidential complaints with Arafiles and the hospital administrator. Then sheriff executed a search warrant to get information stored on the nurses’ computers and confirm that they were the source of the confidential complaints.
Arafiles and Winkler County Attorney Scott Tidwell are awaiting trial on charges of retaliation and misuse of official information.