PROSECUTORS END RUN JUDGE IN PAIN DOCTOR’S TRIAL
Contact: Kathryn Serkes
Association of American Physicians & Surgeons
TUCSON, AZ – July 30, 2003—Despite the judge’s order to proceed with trial, prosecutors managed to pull an end run around the court with last minute changes to delay until October 27 the trial of Tucson physician, Jeri Hassman, accused of 67 counts of wrongful prescribing of pain medication for her patients.
On July 2, federal judge David Bury told the U.S. attorney to stop dragging her feet, and denied her request to delay the trial for almost a year, noting that the trial – then scheduled for July 29 -- had already been continued from the original date of May 28.
But instead of gracefully accepting the judge’s decision, the prosecutors used manipulative tactics to force a delay. Less than two weeks before the trial, they dumped more than 10,000 pages of documents on Dr. Hassman’s sole defense attorney, and added another 9 patients to the original charges. Without enough time to review the documents before trial, the defense had no choice but to request a delay.
“They must have had these papers and patients just waiting in the wings for a sleazy move like this,” said Jane M. Orient, M.D., Executive Director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, a national physicians’ organization that supports Dr. Hassman. Dr. Orient pointed out that the government had been investigating Dr. Hassman for several years, and filed the original charges last March.
“The federal government was ready to indict Dr. Hassman, to shut down her practice, to force her pain patients to find another physician, and to drive her into bankruptcy,” said Dr. Orient. “But when it comes down to going to trial where Dr. Hassman will be exonerated, they’re using every underhanded tactic to delay, delay, delay.”
Dr. Orient said that delays are a common prosecutors’ trick in these cases. “They know the longer the doctor goes without being able to earn a living while the legal fees mount, the better the chances are that the poor doctor will make a bad deal just to bring the nightmare to an end,” said Dr. Orient.
NOTE: AAPS is a non-partisan, professional association of physicians in all specialties, dedicated since 1943 to protecting the patient-physician relationship. On June 26, AAPS held a rally of doctors and patients to show their support for Dr. Hassman.