CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Nueces County District Attorney Mark Gonzalez filed a notice of intent to appeal the decision to dismiss the case against Calallen-area obstetrician and gynecologist Dr. Juan Villarreal one day after the ruling.
Visiting judge Robert Pate agreed with the defense Monday that evidence lost by the Nueces County District Attorney’s Office irreparably damaged the case.
During a pre-trial motion hearing in August 2022, Villarreal’s defense attorneys Ron Barroso and Lisa Greenberg said it had come to light that the district attorney’s office had mishandled or lost evidence in the case, a violation of Villarreal’s rights.
During Monday’s hearing, Nueces County Asst. District Attorney Will Greenlee told the court that it has turned all of the evidence it has over to the defense.
“What we’re not talking about is what you have done,” said visiting judge Robert Pate. “What we’re talking about, Mr. Greenlee, is what you couldn’t do. That’s the problem here.”
Barroso said a source tipped them off to the fact that evidence was missing in the case.
Greenberg said that not knowing what is missing makes it impossible to proceed.
“How do I know what you lost?” she said. “How do I know what witnesses you interviewed? How do I know what notes you took? It’s an unfair burden.”
“It’s pretty clear to me that the defendant has been put in an untenable situation because of the missing evidence, whether it’s negligent or not,” he said. “(It) almost places the defendant in a position of having to prove their innocence as opposed to simply contradict the evidence that is set before them by the state.”
Villarreal was arrested in 2019 on 14 counts of felony sexual assault after 13 of his patients said they were sexually assaulted while he performed their pelvic examinations. The incidents allegedly happened from 2015-2018.
While acknowledging that Greenlee was not the prosecutor in charge of the case when the evidence went missing, Pate noted the seriousness of the situation and the accusations against Villarreal.
“The problem is undoing the effect of the case you inherited,” Pate said. “That’s the problem.”
"What worked in our favor is the negligence and incompetence of the district attorney's office, to be perfectly blunt and honest," said Barroso.
When the ruling was made, there were people in the courtroom who were visibly upset.
The dismissal paves the way for the doctor to potentially get back his medical license, which had been suspended following the charges.
"I fully expect the medical board will re-instate his license, and he will be hopefully allowed to practice here very quickly," defense attorney Ron Barroso told 3NEWS. "He had a lot of support from his patients who want him back."