Texas Nursing Assistant Sentenced to 15 Years in Prison for Sexually Assaulting Unconscious Patients

A Texas hospital care aide has been sentenced to 15 years in prison after being found guilty of sexually assaulting patients while working at two Houston hospitals.

Ernesto Pedraza, 53, was convicted by a jury yesterday of one felony sex charge after being accused of abusing his access at Ben Taub and Kingwood Medical Center in 2015 and 2016 to assault adult male patients, the Harris County District Attorney's Office announced.

According to prosecutors, victims testified they recalled Pedraza performing sex acts on them without their consent while they drifted in and out of consciousness.

"We trust hospital staff to treat us in emergencies, not take advantage of our vulnerability," the Assistant District Attorney, Kaitlin Kaufmann, said in a statement this week after sentencing. "Pedraza broke that trust over and over, and a jury of his peers decided he was guilty."

According to the DA, both hospitals conducted separate investigations into the allegations and later fired Pedraza. The case was also investigated by the Houston Police Department.

Pedraza was booked into jail on August 22 and held without bond, according to inmate records published online by the Harris County Sheriff's Office. He first appeared in court August 23.

A Linkedin account seemingly belonging to Pedraza remained online at the time of writing and contained job entries that matched the work timeline provided by Texas prosecutors. Alongside Houston's Ben Taub and Kingwood Medical Center, the page also lists to previous employment history at Sacred Oak Medical Center, City Ambulance Service and St. Judes Ambulance.

According to the Associated Press (AP), the district attorney's office would not say exactly how many victims were assaulted, only confirming that "multiple allegations" had been made.

Under Texas law, felony sexual assault carries penalties of up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000, according to the website of Texas-based criminal defense firm Harron Law.

It says: "Sexual assault, commonly known as rape, occurs when a person knowingly and intentionally forcibly commits a number of sexual activities that are prohibited as per sexual assault law against the will of another person and without their consent."

If you need to talk about sexual assault, you can contact the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline, managed by RAINN campaigners. Call 800.656.HOPE (4673) to be connected with trained staff from a sexual assault service provider in your area.

The hotline is a safe, confidential service. When you call the hotline, only the first six numbers of the phone number are used to route the call, and your complete phone number is never stored in the system. Please note, most states do have laws that require local staff to contact authorities in certain situations, like if there is a child or vulnerable adult who is in danger.