A jury in Andrews, Texas, acquitted a nurse accused of carrying out a personal vendetta when she anonymously reported concerns about a physician in a letter to the state medical board. Anne Mitchell had been on trial for less than a week on a charge of misusing government information. The letter to the medical board referenced specific patient files to support its descriptions of substandard care provided by a physician at the county-run, 15-bed Winkler County Memorial Hospital in Kermit, Texas. The prosecutor previously dropped the charge against a second nurse, Vickilyn Galle, who joined Mitchell in making the complaint and was likewise indicted. During the trial, Winkler County Attorney Scott Tidwell argued that Mitchell abused access to medical information in order to harass the doctor, Rolando Arafiles, M.D., and that the truth of Mitchell's claims about the quality of care he provided was irrelevant. The medical board has criticized the Winkler County officials for wielding the physician complaint as a basis for criminal prosecution, warning that the episode could have a chilling effect. The board has not taken disciplinary action against Arafiles based on the letter from Mitchell and Galle and declined to comment on investigations.
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