A 41-year-old woman testified Monday that a medical professional who treated her at a Palatine clinic, betrayed and sexually molested her.
The trial of Alejandro Sanchez, 51, began Monday. The Berwyn man faces aggravated criminal sexual abuse charges after authorities say he molested the patient and attempted to use a cellphone to photograph her during a gynecological exam three years ago at Palatine's Vista Health Center, where he worked as a licensed physician's assistant.
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Defense attorney Steven Fagan refuted the charges, saying that the examination his client performed the afternoon of Oct. 8, 2010, was "textbook," and in accordance with standard medical procedures. Moreover, the nurse who was present during the examination noticed nothing unusual or improper, Fagan said.
The patient testified that she saw Sanchez for her annual women's wellness checkup and had been his patient for about seven years. She said something about the gynecological part of the exam didn't feel right, but she dismissed her concerns thinking perhaps she had been mistaken. She said those feelings recurred as Sanchez examined her breast, which was when she noticed a cellphone camera in the front pocket of his shirt.
"It made me uncomfortable. I was shocked," said the woman, who testified that the nurse had her back turned during the examination.
"I went numb. I didn't want to believe this was happening," said the woman.
After Sanchez left the examination room, the woman broke down and told the nurse, Ruth Escamilla, she believed Sanchez photographed her. Escamilla alerted Dr. Yolanda Escalona, Vista's lead physician, who the woman said checked Sanchez's phone for pictures but found none.
"I was hurt more than anything," said the woman. "I felt if she didn't believe me -- and she was a woman -- no one else would."
Prosecutors say Sanchez initially said the phone was falling out of his pocket. Several days later, confronted again by Escalona, he said he got a phone call during the exam and was attempting to mute it, said Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Sharon Kantor. Police found no cellphone records of Sanchez receiving any calls during the woman's examination, Kantor said.
Under cross examination, the woman testified she had been diagnosed with depression but denied taking medication for it. The woman admitted to Fagan that she told Escamilla and Escalona only about the photos and not about the physical abuse. Fagan also elicited from the woman that she did not tell prosecutors until three days ago about the abuse.