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Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Akron Univ. School of Law

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Prosecutorial Misconduct in Painkiller Distribution Case

Ok, so it isn't the Senator Stevens trial misconduct, but perhaps the Department of Justice will be a bit more careful about ensuring that ethical rules and constitutional values are upheld when pursuing criminal charges against anyone, including doctors.  Vanessa Blue from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel writes, 

Calling the actions of prosecutors "profoundly disturbing," a federal judge in Miami has ordered the U.S. government to pay sanctions topping $600,000 in the case of a South Florida physician charged with illegally prescribing painkillers.  U.S. District Judge Alan Gold is forcing the government to pay Dr. Ali Shaygan more than half the costs he incurred to defend himself at trial as punishment for secretly recording his defense team.

In a harshly-worded 50-page order, Gold said the "win-at-any-cost behavior" of federal prosecutors Sean Cronin and Andrea Hoffman raised "troubling issues about the integrity of those who wield enormous power over the people they prosecute."  Shaygan, 36, a Miami Beach resident, was found not guilty March 12 of 141 counts of unlawful prescribing.  Prosecutors had accused Shaygan of selling prescriptions for powerful pain medications without legitimate medical purpose, leading to the overdose death of a West Palm Beach man.

As his trial was under way, defense lawyers learned that two witnesses had secretly recorded their phone conversations with the defense team with approval from prosecutors and government agents.  The investigation, purportedly to look into witness tampering by the defense, resulted in three recordings that were not disclosed to Gold or Shaygan's lawyers, David O. Markus, Marc Seitles and Robin Kaplan.  The recordings captured of Markus and his investigator violated internal policies of the U.S. Attorney's Office and federal evidentiary rules because defense lawyers were not informed of their existence.  "We regret that any of this ever happened in the first place but we are grateful that Judge Gold took it seriously and did the right thing," Markus said. . . .


Thanks to Professor Froomkin at Discourse.net for the website. 

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