At the beginning of 2022, Yvonne Rosales was entering her second year as the first woman elected as district attorney for the 34th Judicial District, which includes El Paso, Hudspeth and Culberson counties.

By the end of the year, she was a private citizen, forced from office by a series of failures and scandals that zapped public confidence.

El Paso Matters editors chose Rosales’ downfall as the year’s top story. Here’s a summary of how Rosales unraveled.

In May, El Paso Matters reporter Victoria Rossi explored how Rosales had dismantled a domestic violence unit that was viewed as a national model. 

In July, District Judge Sam Medrano Jr. harshly criticized Rosales in a court hearing after she gave a comment to media saying she wanted a summer 2023 trial for the gunman accused of killing 23 people at an El Paso Walmart in 2019. Medrano said her office had not made a single filing in the case, and he accused her of grandstanding. 

That court hearing, and a gag order issued by Medrano during the hearing, set off a series of events that would eventually lead to Rosales’ resignation.

In August, jail magistrates began dismissing hundreds of criminal cases because Rosales’ office hadn’t sought indictments in the time allowed by Texas law.

Later in August, El Paso defense attorney Omar Carmona filed a court petition to remove Rosales from office on grounds of incompetency and official misconduct. The petition extensively cited El Paso Matters’ reporting on the decline in domestic violence prosecutions, and the large numbers of criminal cases being dismissed.

El Paso District Attorney Yvonne Rosales is sworn in prior to testifying on Thursday, Dec. 1, during a hearing regarding the Walmart mass shooting case and her role in the sending of an email. Rosales did not answer any questions. She is flanked by her attorneys, Matthew DeKoatz, standing, and Richard Roman, sitting. (Angela Saavedra/El Paso Matters.)

Rosales and her allies fought back, alleging a conspiracy that included the El Paso County Attorney’s Office, Carmona, El Paso Matters and others. At the same time, an anonymous person filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service seeking to strip El Paso Matters of its nonprofit status. The complaint cited El Paso Matters’ reporting about Rosales.

In early August, a number of El Paso journalists received an email critical of Medrano and a former prosecutor in the Walmart shooting case. The email purported to come from the family of a Juárez man killed in the 2019 Walmart attack. Medrano appointed El Paso attorney Justin Underwood to represent the Juárez family in an investigation to determine if they or another party had violated the July gag order in the case.

An investigation by El Paso Matters showed that the recipients of the email were all on the media distribution list maintained by the El Paso District Attorney’s Office. 

In October, a court filing by El Paso Underwood revealed that the family said the email was written by Rosales’ personal attorney, Roger Rodriguez. The family said they began recording Rodriguez when they became suspicious of his activities. The recordings – which were turned over to the FBI – showed Rodriguez making a number of threats against the family, Medrano and El Paso Matters founder Robert Moore.

On Nov. 1, El Paso County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal filed a notice of intent to “prosecute this removal action against the District Attorney for the 34th Judicial District, Yvonne Rosales, from office pursuant to Chapter 87 of the Local Government Code.”

In late November, Rosales announced her resignation effective Dec. 14 as part of a deal to end her removal trial, which had been scheduled for March. Days later, she invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when facing questions about her actions.