|Tuesday, November 19, 2002
|His concern is that the prosecution is prejudicing case against pain specialist
Judge ponders purpose of seeking new charges
|The federal court has yet to decide whether to grant a defense motion to dismiss the new indictment, which contains 313 charges.
By JEN McCAFFERY
THE ROANOKE TIMES
A federal judge questioned whether prosecutors in a case against a Roanoke pain specialist, two of his former employees and two former colleagues may have prejudiced the case against them by returning to the grand jury repeatedly to seek new charges.
At a hearing in federal court Monday, U.S. District Judge Samuel Wilson expressed concern that prosecutors in the case are controlling when the case of Cecil Knox, Beverly Gale Boone, Tiffany Durham, William Newbill James and Kathleen O'Gee will go to trial.
Less than two months before their trial, it is still unclear how many charges the defendants face. Federal prosecutors sought the new indictment last month, and Wilson has yet to rule on whether he will grant defense attorneys' motions to dismiss the new indictment.
Knox, Boone and Durham face charges of conspiracy, health care fraud, mail fraud, obstruction of justice, payment and receipt of kickbacks, illegal drug distribution that resulted in the death or serious injury of patients, and prescription of drugs for no legitimate medical purpose. Knox and Boone also face racketeering charges. The new indictment also alleges that Knox traded OxyContin prescriptions for marijuana.
Wilson said at the hearing that the prosecution's seeking new charges in the case could constitute hardship and prejudice against the defendants, who have to keep waiting for their trial and keep paying legal fees.
Wilson also questioned again why federal prosecutors chose to respond to his order seeking more information on some of the 58 charges that replaced the original indictment with the new indictment that contained 313 charges.
U.S. Attorney John Brownlee argued that the new indictment, which contained mostly drug charges leveled against Knox, Boone and Durham was both conservative and proper. Their trial is set to start Jan. 6.
Later in the hearing, Brownlee also suggested that a private investigator working on the defense team might have intimidated witnesses in the case.
Brownlee did not name the investigator nor put forward any evidence that the investigator may have intimidated witnesses. But federal prosecutors have subpoenaed Roanoke private investigator Pete Sullivan's personnel records from the more than two decades Sullivan worked as a Roanoke police officer. Brownlee would not elaborate after the hearing on his comments.
Sullivan is working for the defense team for Knox, his attorney Tony Anderson said.
"I'd be shocked if there's been any intimidation by the defense team," Anderson said.
Roanoke attorney Gary Lumsden, who is trying to keep Sullivan's records from being released, argued that federal prosecutors were trying to intimidate his client, who has done nothing wrong.
"It's a fishing expedition," said Lumsden, though he did say that Sullivan had been in contact with witnesses for the prosecution in the case, as is standard procedure.