Physicians assistant acquitted of molestation charges
Man had been accused of molesting a patient
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A physician's assistant who worked at the Vista Health Center in Palatine was acquitted Thursday of molesting a female patient during an October 2010 gynecological exam.
Alejandro Sanchez, 51, declined to comment on Cook County Judge Kay Hanlon's ruling, which concluded a three-day bench trial that began in October.
"I can't find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt," Hanlon said, adding she believed Sanchez acted inappropriately "in a lot of ways."
Hanlon also referred to the now 41-year-old accuser, a patient of Sanchez's for seven years.
"I believed everything she said," stated Hanlon. "She was clearly very upset when she testified."
The woman testified that the exam on Oct. 8, 2010, "didn't feel right." She said she believed Sanchez tried to use his phone to photograph her breasts. Moments after the exam ended, she told a nurse who informed the clinic's medical director, Dr. Yolanda Escalona, who confronted Sanchez.
Escalona testified Sanchez told her he was handling the phone because it was falling from his shirt pocket. Several days later, he told her he had been trying to silence an incoming call, said Escalona, who checked Sanchez's phone but found no photographs of the woman. Later, during an interview with Palatine police, Sanchez claimed he had received a text message from the Illinois Lottery, prosecutors said.
Hanlon said Sanchez's cellphone explanations bothered her, as did his attempt to hug the woman following the exam. His behavior was "not within reasonable medical standards," said Hanlon, but did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt the charges of criminal sexual abuse.
Moreover, prosecution witnesses — whose testimony Hanlon alternately described as "horrible" and "not adding much" — failed to support the state's claims, she said.
Defense attorney Steven Fagan acknowledged that these kinds of cases are difficult.
"The standard of proof is high and it's high for a reason," he said. "The standard is proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendant enjoys the presumption of innocence and he maintains that innocence to this day."
A representative for the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation said Sanchez's license is suspended, but Sanchez can petition to have it reinstated.
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