FREDERICK, Md. (WDVM) — A Frederick pediatrician has been sentenced to one year behind bars after being found guilty of assault and sex offense of a former patient.
On Monday morning, Judge William Nicklas, Jr. sentenced Ernesto Torres, 69, to one year at the Frederick County Adult Detention Center.
“This punishment just does not fit the crime that it was not severe enough,” said Chief Assistant State’s Attorney for Frederick County, Tammy Leache.
Earlier this year, a 17-year-old female came forward alleging Torres had sexually assaulted her during a physical exam.
After an investigation by the Frederick Police Department, Torres’s charges included second-degree rape, fourth-degree sex offence and second-degree assault. But after a bench trial, Torres was found guilty only on the latter charges, not including rape.
“If he had been found guilty of the second-degree rape, he would have been facing 20 years. It’s kind of a glaring hole in the legislature that there’s such a minute distinction between the two crimes, but the penalty is so vastly different,” Leache explained.
Ahead of sentencing, defense attorneys for Torres brought forward two parents of former patients of his practice to speak about how much of a positive impact the pediatrician had on their children’s health.
“Doctor Torres had unequivocally my children’s best interests at heart,” one mother said.
The court also heard from Torres’ sister who talked about how much of a difference his practice made for the Hispanic community in Frederick who sought his care.
She noted his devotion to his patients and described how even during vacations, Torres would check in on patients. The case and convictions, she said, has decimated his life.
“It is a tragedy for us all,” Torres’ sister said.
Judge William R. Nicklas Jr. considered their testimony and the words from 23 letters sent to the court on behalf of Torres.
“These letters make this case all the more puzzling,” Judge Nicklas remarked.
Ultimately, Judge Nicklas told Torres “you have damaged your patient, and hurt her whole family.”
He added that Torres’ actions had breached patient trust and standard of care.
The female victim in this case did not wish to speak on-camera but she did provide a statement to say that she pursued this case to gain a sense of closure.
Although she says she would have liked to have seen Torres behind bars for a longer period of time, she is now able to move forward.
“I was relieved that this whole eight-month process is over with,” the victim said.
The victim and her family encourage anyone who has experienced sexual assault to believe to report it.
“We’re not going to back down in the future. We’re going to continue to take these cases and prosecute the strongest crime that we believe the facts support,” Leache said.