|Thursday, October 09, 2003
|Judge clears Kathleen O'Gee
Woman in Knox trial cleared of all charges
|In a major blow to the prosecution's case, a federal judge found that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute Kathleen O'Gee.
By JEN McCAFFERY
THE ROANOKE TIMES
A federal judge dismissed all charges Wednesday against a Pulaski woman who was indicted along with Roanoke pain specialist Cecil Byron Knox and had been pressured by the U.S. attorney to plead guilty in the case.
In a rare move of dismissing all counts against a defendant, Chief U.S. District Judge Samuel Wilson ruled that federal prosecutors Rusty Fitzgerald and Pat Hogeboom did not present sufficient evidence against Kathleen O'Gee to warrant sending the case to the jury. The prosecution finished presenting its case Wednesday, and defense attorneys argued that charges against their clients should be dropped.
Wilson also said he would rule this morning on other arguments in the case - including that Knox and his office manager Beverly Gale Boone should not be held responsible for the overdose deaths of people for whom Knox had not prescribed medication in more than a year and a half.
O'Gee said after the charges against her were dismissed that she was happy to see what she said were two years of intimidation by federal authorities come to an end. She added that she planned to attend the rest of the trial to support the remaining defendants in the case.
"I'm happy that truth and justice came out of it," O'Gee said. "I think that it's important to people when they're standing in the truth not to back down."
Fitzgerald and Hogeboom declined to comment after the charges were dismissed.
O'Gee was implicated in connection with a form of therapy, called craniosacral therapy, that she provided at Southwest Virginia Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Federal prosecutors argued that the therapy, gentle massage that targets the central nervous system, had no recognized medical utility and that federal health care and insurance programs did not allow reimbursement for the treatment.
O'Gee, 55, a former flight attendant, was charged with racketeering, six health care fraud charges, conspiracy to commit racketeering, conspiracy to violate general criminal statutes, three counts of mail fraud and three counts of mail fraud using a kickback scheme.
O'Gee also described the case against Knox, Boone, counselor Willard Newbill James and herself as a political steppingstone for U.S. Attorney John Brownlee.
"The government and some of these people who are in these positions can't destroy innocent people's lives for their careers," O'Gee said.
O'Gee also said she understood why Tiffany Durham, her former associate at Southwest Virginia Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, pleaded guilty in the case. She said she thought Durham decided to cooperate with federal authorities because she has three children and faced a serious prison sentence.
O'Gee, who said she lives alone, added that she never planned to plead guilty. She said she had met with the federal prosecutors and agents Gregg Wood and Robert Wardlow, and they tried to persuade her to plead guilty. She said she was told that they planned to convince the jury that she had conspired with Knox and that she would go to prison for the rest of her life.
Still, O'Gee said she never agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors and plead guilty. Nonetheless, in August, Brownlee arranged for the scheduling of her guilty plea on the federal court docket along with Durham's. O'Gee's attorney, Randy Cargill of Roanoke, had to arrange for his client's guilty plea to be taken off the docket.
Wilson said he would rule this morning on motions by other defense attorneys in the case to dismiss charges against their clients.
Defense attorneys have argued that their clients did not intend to perform criminal acts with reference to the racketeering, fraud and conspiracy charges.
Roanoke attorney Melissa Friedman, who is representing Knox along with Tony Anderson, also argued that in several of the cases in which federal prosecutors say Knox and Boone were responsible for the overdose deaths, the patients had not received medication from Knox in more than a year.
And Roanoke attorney Greg Lyons, who is representing the practice along with John Lichtenstein, said that several of the overdoses in the indictment are attributed to Knox's prescription of certain medications.
But Lyons argued that in some cases, the allegations did not square with what toxicology reports found in their systems after their deaths.
The case continues at 8:30 a.m. today.