Area courts were busy in 2017 with cases that dealt with everything from whether or not a National Football League player could suit up to how a local doctor prescribed medication to those in pain. In between, there were the usual tales of the awful things people do to one another and their children.
Continuous sexual assault of child
Probably the most shocking case of the year took place over in Fannin County. Sergio Facundo was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole after jurors convicted him of continuous sexual assault of a child under 14 back in May. The allegations that Facundo was sexually abusing a young Trenton boy came to light after the boy's older brother was struck by a car while waiting on a school bus the year before. In September of 2016, 12-year-old Joel Noria chased a soccer ball into the street while waiting on the school bus. He was struck by an SUV and died. While police were investigating that incident, Joel's siblings made outcries about sexual abuse that included all of the adults in the home. Noemi and Pedro Noria were each charged with continuous sexual assault of a child among other things. Noemi's oldest son, Nelson Rodriquez, 19, was also charged with sexually abusing his siblings.
“In a way, he (Joel) gave up his life and saved some of his siblings,” Fannin County District Attorney Richard Glaser said.
Joel's younger brother testified that Facundo raped him on at least three occasions and said that his parents were either present or near by when the abuse happened. At least once, he said, his mother and father were in the room when the abuse happened.
The children's mother, Noemi Noria, was convicted in December of continuous sexual abuse of a child after the same little boy told jurors that his mother participated in the abuse he suffered at the hands of Facundo. She was sentenced to 30 years in prison for her part in the crimes committed against her children. A therapist testified that several of the children were so damaged by the abuse that they had to go to a specialized treatment facility for help and will likely battle with the aftereffects of the trauma they suffered for the rest of their lives.
Nelson Rodriquez is set for trial in March on an aggravated sexual assault of a child charge and Pedro Noria is set for trial in February on continuous sexual assault of a child under 14 charge.
In September, a case out of the NFL brought Dallas Cowboys star running back Ezekiel Elliott to town. Elliott was seeking a stay of his six-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy. U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant granted the stay but Elliott ended up serving out the suspension after all.
Sherman doctor arrested
Federal prosecutors said local doctor Howard Gregg Diamond over-prescribed medications, that the behavior led to the deaths of seven people and those occurred in the Oklahoma cities of Ardmore, Hugo, Idabel and Yukon.
The federal indictment that was returned on July 6, says that the seven people, who are not named in the indictment, filled prescriptions obtained from Diamond and then overdosed on those medications in the days and weeks that followed. Some of the patients died within a couple of days of filling the prescriptions and others were within a month of getting the medication. The drugs prescribed by Diamond that are linked in the indictment to overdoses include Fentanyl, Hydromorphone, alprazolam, methadone, morphine, oxycodone, zolpidem and oxymorphone.
In addition, the indictment says Diamond filed or caused to be filed paperwork with Medicare seeking payment for services he said he rendered to patients at times when the government says it has proof he was not in the place where the services were rendered. The indictment lists nine such counts that relate to charges ranging from $100 for an injection to $556 for a new patient visit. The indictment says the government is seeking the forfeiture of Diamond's medical license if he is convicted of the charges. Diamond has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Van Alstyne teacher contract
A federal jury also concluded that Van Alstyne Independent School Districts didn't discriminate against a former teacher based on her age when they did not renew her contract in 2015. Deborrah Skaggs sued, saying that the district had forced her out due to her age. She said Van Alstyne Middle School Principal Ryan Coleman asked her about her plans to retire after she attended a retirement seminar in 2012. She said she told him she did not plan to retire because her husband had died and she could not afford to quit working. The district said Skaggs' teaching methods needed updating and that was the reason behind her contract not being renewed.