Rosenblum Schwartz & Fry
314-862-4332

Two sides to a criminal case: MD's defense could be compelling

In the realm of American criminal law, certain principles stand as inviolable and absolutely crucial to the notion of fundamental justice.

The presumption of innocence, for example. No criminal conviction in the absence of a finding of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The right of an accused to secure legal representation and defend against criminal accusations.

And this: the need to mitigate the downside consequences of criminal sentencing when compelling circumstances are presented that reasonably indicate strong reasons for adjustment.

We ask readers in St. Louis and across Missouri to consider the case of an elderly doctor in one state who was the focal point of a high-profile trial involving his alleged criminal conduct in overprescribing opioid medications to thousands of patients who did not need them.

That physician subsequently pleaded guilty recently in a change-of -plea hearing before a federal judge in his so-called "pill mill" case. He now faces sentencing on 44 counts of health care fraud, as well as on counts of conspiracy and money laundering.

Although guidelines call for a prison term of up to 15 ½ years, the defendant's legal team points to a well-chronicled history of personal illness that should reasonably factor into the ultimate sentencing outcome.

The bottom line advanced by the doctor's attorneys is that he simply wouldn't have done what he did absent material mental challenges resulting from diagnosed severe bipolar disorder and an accompanying nerve-related disease that is linked with dementia. At the above-cited hearing, evidence was offered indicating that the doctor regularly takes more than a score of medications to treat his conditions.

The judge in the case ruled that the physician defendant can remain free while he awaits sentencing so that daily psychiatric treatments can continue unabated.

Knowledge of wrongdoing and an intent to act unlawfully are understandably cornerstone considerations for any court or jury evaluating an appropriate sentencing outcome in a criminal case.

In real life, mitigating circumstances -- including, certainly, mental illness -- must logically factor into such determinations.

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Rosenblum Schwartz & Fry

120 South Central Avenue
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Saint Louis, MO 63105

Phone: 314-862-4332
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