|Sunday, September 14, 2003
|Two defendants get less public attention
Knox case ensnares former associates
|Kathleen O'Gee and Willard Newbill James didn't work for Knox but were associated with his practice.
By JEN McCAFFERY
THE ROANOKE TIMES
Kathleen O'Gee was in the parking lot of her local grocery store in Pulaski when federal marshals descended upon her, handcuffed her and took her to Roanoke City Jail.
The former flight attendant for United Airlines is now on trial in federal court in Roanoke along with Roanoke pain specialist Cecil Byron Knox. At the center of the case is the question of whether Knox was the doctor who treated patients no one else would, or the one who, in nine cases, facilitated his patients' demise.
His office manager, Beverly Gale Boone, faces almost the same charges as Knox. His practice, Southwest Virginia Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, is also implicated in criminal activity. One former employee, Tiffany Durham, has already pleaded guilty to knowledge that a felony was going on at the practice and not reporting it.
Much less attention has been paid to the two other defendants in the case, O'Gee and licensed professional counselor Willard Newbill James.
Opening statements and testimony at the trial last week provided a glimpse at the two other defendants who were associated with the practice and criminally charged. O'Gee massaged some of Knox's patients, and James tried to help them recover memories only two floors above where federal prosecutors have argued Knox prescribed painkillers outside the scope of legitimate medical practice.
O'Gee, 54, and James, 58, are not implicated in the serious drug charges and potential life sentences Knox and Boone face in connection with what federal prosecutors argue was the distribution of OxyContin and other painkillers that led in nine cases to the death of Knox's patients.
Still, the duo, who were not Knox employees but were associated with his Second Street practice, face charges of racketeering, conspiracies, mail fraud, health care fraud and participation in a kickback scheme.
O'Gee, known as Katie, was first afflicted with back pain in 1982 after she was injured on the job, first when she was hit with a beverage cart, and again when she fell and hit a seat during a rough landing, her attorney, Randy Cargill, said in his opening statement.
After repeated back surgeries, O'Gee tried several forms of alternative therapy to find relief. She eventually learned about craniosacral therapy, a treatment that involves applying pressure around the spinal column, Cargill said. It helped her so much, she decided to learn how to do it to help other people.
She became associated with Knox in the mid-1990s. Three days a week, O'Gee would pick up a list of patients from Boone, treat them, then turn in slips that recorded who she treated and for how long, Cargill said. He argued that O'Gee had nothing to do with billing and the most she ever made in a year she saw Knox's patients was about $25,000.
When federal prosecutors were investigating the practice, they told her that it was incorrectly and illegally billing federal health care programs. O'Gee returned to the practice anyway, and that's the reason Cargill thinks she's on trial today.
James, who lives in Roanoke, also became associated with Knox in the mid-1990s, according to the opening statement by his attorney, David Damico. James, who is known as Bill, treated patients at the Hollins Head Injury Program until it shut down. He then became associated with Knox.
One of Knox's patients, Thomas Mills, testified Friday that James had treated him both at the Hollins project and at Knox's practice. Mills, who suffered from multiple spinal fractures and head trauma in separate incidents of falling 50 feet from a cliff, a chain saw accident, a bulldozer accident and a car wreck, has suffered memory loss.
James took Mills' collect call when he got sent to jail in Roanoke County for trying to sell the painkiller Percocet. He visited him in the jail eight or nine times and worked on improving Mills' memory, Mills testified.
When Mills got out of jail and visited James in the office on one occasion, James worried that he had taken too many pills and told Knox, Mills testified. James went to Mills' house and bought him a weekly pill counter, to help Mills manage his medications, Mills testified.
Like O'Gee, James would also fill out papers for how long he saw a patient and turn it in to Boone, Damico said.
Both Cargill and Damico have said their clients had nothing to do with the billing for Knox patients and are not criminally culpable.
The trial continues Monday and is expected to last for five more weeks.