Friday, January 21

Latino pediatrician accused of abusing children in Maryland claims he is bewitched and avoids trial: they declare “mental incapacity”

Dr. Ernesto César Torres.

Photo: Frederick police Department / Courtesy

A new unusual twist had the long-awaited trial of former pediatrician Dr. Ernesto César Torres, accused of hundreds of counts of sexual crimes against 19 underage victims in Maryland.

Judge Stevenson Solt, of the Frederick County Circuit Court, ruled yesterday that the defendant, who lost his medical license years ago, is not competent to go to trial, after Two psychiatrists will testify about the doctor’s alleged delusions, including his belief that he is “haunted.”

Torres, 70 years old and of origin Peruvian, was accused of 98 counts for supposedly abusing minors in a span of almost two decades, between July 2001 and April 2019. He also faces 61 counts of sexual abuse in another case, with alleged crimes dating back to the 1980s.

In a written opinion issued Wednesday, Judge Solt ruled that Torres is incompetent and ordered that he continue to be held in a hospital under the supervision of the Maryland Department of Health (MDH). Torres’ capacity will be evaluated in 90 days, in addition to annual reviews.

Torres had already been declared incompetent to stand trial in April 2020, but another competition hearing was held two weeks ago after his mental severity will be questioned during his confinement at Spring Grove Hospital.

“Competence is defined as the defendant’s ability to help an attorney prepare a defense and understand the nature of the proceedings,” according to a statement from the Frederick County State Attorney’s Office.

During the approximately seven-hour hearing on June 23, two psychiatrists expressed their opinion on whether the Torres delusions of an “evil black witch” they make him incompetent to stand trial. According to reports, the doctor believes that a witch came out of a painting in his house and took over his life.

Dr. Christiane Tellefsen, called by defense attorney Margaret Teahan, testified that Torres is incompetent and has a delusional disorder, which affects their understanding of the judicial system.

Instead, MDH’s Dr. Danielle Robinson found Torres competent to be prosecuted for his alleged crimes. In court, Robinson described Torres’s belief in the “witch” as unusual, but claimed that she could speak intelligently on other issues, including court proceedings.

“Both witnesses are experts in the field whose credentials are equally impressive. The Court concludes that each opinion is equally possible. Therefore, this Court cannot conclude, today, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the accused is currently competent to stand trial, ”the judge stated.

With this conclusion, State Attorney Charlie Smith believes that victims miss a chance for closure. “It’s very frustrating that these countless victims cannot confront the defendant and have their day in court, ”he wrote.

In an interview, Prosecutor Smith described the case as a “unique situation”, considering that Torres continues to be detained under the supervision of MDH, whose psychiatrist testified that he is competent to go to trial. Although more proficiency reviews are scheduled, Smith acknowledged that the court will dismiss the charges against Torres after five years have elapsed, reported the local newspaper Frederick News-Post.

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