Dr. Jorge Zamora-Quezada will finally be going to trial Wednesday, more than a year after his arrest in May 2018 for allegedly running a healthcare scheme from his rheumatology practices in Edinburg, Brownsville and San Antonio.
Government prosecutors allege that his wife, Meisy Zamora and two employees — Felix Ramos and Estella Santos Natera — also participated in the scheme, which allegedly involved defrauding health insurers by misdiagnosing and over-treating patients.
On Wednesday, the attorneys for the government and the defendants’ attorneys met for a status conference, during which U.S. District Judge Ricardo H. Hinojosa addressed pending motions.
Among them was an oral request made by Adolfo “Al” Alvarez, the attorney for Santos Natera, for the judge to recuse himself from presiding over the case, which was opposed by the government attorneys and by the other defendants.
The request stemmed from an incident during which the U.S. Marshals allegedly overheard Zamora-Quezada make a comment about the judge — along the lines of “the judge is going to get his” — because he was upset over having to be at the courthouse early in the morning for a hearing.
Although the comment could have been interpreted as threatening, neither the Marshals, the FBI, nor the U.S. Attorney’s Office found any reason to prosecute him for the remark.
The judge said he didn’t believe the remark affected his impartiality toward Zamora-Quezada and had no doubt he would remain fair during the trial. He also noted that the attorneys for Zamora-Quezada had already indicated they would file an affidavit stating they would not appeal the case based on the judge’s non-recusal.
Alvarez said given the Marshal’s report — which was filed under seal — that they found nothing credible on which to prosecute Zamora-Quezada, they would withdraw their request.
Zamora-Quezada and Zamora had both filed motions requesting a bench trial instead of a jury trial, but because of the government’s opposition Hinojosa said he would not grant it at this time. He left open the possibility of doing so depending on whether they had trouble finding jurors who had not been influenced by the extensive media coverage of the case.
Attorneys for the doctor, Trey Martinez, re-urged a request for documents from the government attorneys regarding an expert witness the government no longer intended to call during the trial.
The attorney for the government, Adrienne Ellen Frazior, explained they were no longer going to call the witness due to an illness.
Still, the defense attorney sought any notes taken during any possible conversations between the government and the expert witness regarding the case. The judge instructed the government to find out if any such notes existed and turn them over to the defense.
The issue of motions in limine, which are motions regarding what kind of evidence should be excluded or restricted from the presence of the jury, have yet to be agreed upon by the parties but the judge said he would notify them how he would handle those before the trial.
Jury selection is scheduled to begin Wednesday morning with opening statements expected to begin soon after. The trial is estimated to last three to four weeks.