15 Sep 2007
Subject: ABQjournal message from a friend
From: "Shelly Barreras"
New Mexicos Leading Journal the Albuquerque Journal
A win for Fathers!
Recommended by firstname.lastname@example.org
Saturday, September 15, 2007
'Dad' Awarded $1.2M Over Phony Child
By Carolyn Carlson
Journal Staff Writer
A District Court jury awarded $1.2 million to a man whose life was turned upside down after two DNA tests pinpointed him as the father of a child who didn't exist.
On Friday, Mobile Blood Services and owner David Quintana were found liable of fraudulent, negligent and intentional actions that inflicted emotional distress on Steve Barreras, 50.
The jury of 11 men and one woman awarded $625,000 in compensatory damages and $575,000 in punitive damages.
The claim of a child was made during divorce proceedings by his ex-wife, Viola Trevino, to secure child support payments. She is now in federal prison on a related conviction and awaits trial on several state charges.
On Friday, Barreras' attorneys, Mary Han and Rob Perry, said the award was remarkable.
"Steve is incredibly grateful that he received vindication and recognition from a jury of his peers about the hell he has gone through," Han said.
She said the jurors told her they wanted to send a strong message of accountability.
"Their concern was that places like Mobile Blood Services are unregulated," Han said. "They said they wanted the message out that people and businesses will be held accountable even if the government does not regulate them."
Han said she and Perry asked the jury to put a value on Barreras' hopes and dreams.
"That is what they did," Han said. "They were an intelligent jury who understood it could have happened to any one of them."
During divorce proceedings in 1999, Trevino claimed she was pregnant by Barreras. Later, Trevino insisted there was a child, even though no one had seen it.
Because of the DNA tests, Barreras was under court order to pay child support.
Meanwhile, Barreras kept trying to get someone to believe there was no child because of his vasectomy and Trevino's tubal ligation.
Twice, DNA was collected, and, both times, test results came back positive.
That's because samples were taken from Eve Barreras, the adult daughter of Trevino and Barreras, court records show.
In December 2004, state District Court Judge Linda Vanzi ordered Trevino to bring the child to court.
Instead, Trevino picked up a 2-year-old girl and her grandmother from a South Valley street, promising them lunch, $50 and a trip to see Santa Claus.
Trevino took the child into Vanzi's courtroom, leaving the grandmother in the car. When the grandmother followed her into court, Trevino had to admit the child was not hers.
Vanzi declared the child was a fiction.
Quintana testified this week that he wasn't present and didn't have any knowledge of the fraud committed when his then-employee, Pamela Flores, said she took saliva samples from Barreras' ex-wife, Viola Trevino, and the nonexistent child.
Terrance Yenson, who defended Quintana and Mobile Blood Services, argued that the responsibility didn't lie with Quintana or his service.
Yenson said jurors should look instead at Flores, the employee who certified she had taken the DNA sample; or at Trevino; or at Barreras' daughter, Eve; or even at Barreras' first attorney, who failed to subpoena hospital records that might have unveiled the fraud sooner.
Flores, during her deposition, admitted she and Eve Barreras were friends.
After the jury's decision, Barreras and his current wife, Shelly, said they were a bit stunned by the award.
"All we wanted was justice," Shelly Barreras said.
Quintana left the courtroom without comment after the verdicts were read.
Trevino, 54, is serving a 16-month federal sentence for filing a false tax return based on the same series of incidents.
Trevino pleaded not guilty Monday to state criminal charges of kidnapping, fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, Medicaid fraud, falsification of documents, unlawful dealing in federal food stamps, tampering with public records, fraudulent application for a vital record and perjury.
Flores and Eve Barreras are each charged in state criminal court with two counts of fraud for their roles in the incident.
State District Judge Linda Vanzi presided over the civil trial.