FREDERICK, Md. (WJZ) — A Maryland pediatrician has posted bail and is now free at home awaiting trial—despite prosecutors calling him a flight risk and charging him with more than 60 criminal counts related to sexual interactions with his young patients.
The Frederick County state’s attorney says there are at least 24 victims of Dr. Ernesto Torres. They’re all young, female patients from his Frederick medical practice.
The instances of abuse date from 1980 to November 2018.
Over the objection of prosecutors, a judge granted Dr. Torres a $400,000 bail Tuesday, which he quickly paid.
The state’s attorney told WJZ the pediatrician is not a United States citizen and feared he would flee to his native Peru.
Dr. Torres agreed to stop practicing medicine at Tuesday’s bail review.
When the allegations first surfaced earlier this month, another judge allowed Torres to keep seeing patients. A prosecutor said in court Tuesday that the Maryland Board of Physicians was unable to temporarily suspend Torres’ license.
The Board’s online physician database shows no pending charges against Torres.
Torres’ defense attorney Richard Bricken said his client is innocent of the charges. “I need him out of jail to prepare for these defenses,” he told the judge. “It’s highly questionable in my mind how this occurred… this stampede of charges—some 40 years later.”
He said the pediatrician, who appeared in court via closed circuit camera, “cares more about his patients than he does himself.”
“We believe based on the allegations Dr. Torres poses a significant threat to the public, which is why we requested he be held without bond,” State’s Attorney Charlie Smith said. “We again encourage anyone with information regarding the case to contact authorities immediately.”
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Amber Gunder said her children are former patients of Dr. Torres and were never abused, but she said there allegations are still devastating. “It makes you not want to trust anyone with your kids,” she told WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren. “The first victim to come forward was very brave.”
Prosecutors say much of the abuse happened with parents in the same exam room—fondling and inappropriate touching. Gunder says Torres “often would have his back toward you.” She noted many young victims and parents may not have realized what was going on. “How many kids don’t realize that is not ok?”
Frederick Police have two detectives working full time on the case.
Anyone with information about this case, including other potential victims should contact Detective Sean McKinney at 240-578-5683.
A Frederick Police press release noted, “There are many resources available online and locally that provide tips on having these conversations.”
Those local resources include:
- Frederick Police Department, Victim Services Unit (301) 600-1356
- The Child Advocacy Center (301) 600-1758
- Heartly House (301) 662-8800