Sex, Drugs & a Federal Prosecution

The shabby case against Dr. Bernard L. Rottschaefer

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Federal prosecutors have never charged Riggle with perjury.

Remarkably, Riggle's letters weren't enough to win Dr. Rottschaefer a new trial. Buchanan's office argued that Riggle's letters were irrelevant, because Buchanan's public grandstanding on the sex allegations notwithstanding, the case was never about sex, but about Rottschaefer prescribing drugs for no legitimate medical purpose. In 2006, a federal appeals court agreed, and denied Rottschafer a new trial.

Now there's new evidence undercutting the "legitimate medical purpose" argument, too. All five women who testified against Rottschaefer have sued him in civil court for medical malpractice. So far, none of those suits have been successful-three of eight remain unresolved.

The lawsuits did, however, allow Rottschaefer's lawyers to look at the women's entire medical histories, not just the portions prosecutors provided at trial. What they found ought to be enough to set Rottschaefer free.

It's now clear that all five women perjured themselves in Rottschaefer's criminal trial-both about the bargains they'd struck with federal prosecutors, and about their own medical histories. One failed to inform the jury that she'd been diagnosed with several psychological disorders, allowing the jury to conclude that a breakdown she'd suffered in 2002 was due to the drugs Dr. Rottschaefer had prescribed her, not her underlying medical conditions.

The other four had been or were later treated with medications similar to those Dr. Rottschaefer prescribed, and for the same conditions he had diagnosed. Meaning that not only were Dr. Rottschaefer's actions not outside the scope of accepted medical practice, they were actually duplicated by other doctors.

It's unclear if Buchanan and her subordinates are guilty of basic incompetence here, or something more sinister. That they could look at what's come out since Dr. Rottschaefer's conviction and still feel he belongs in prison is telling, as is the fact that they've yet to charge their star witness with perjury, despite overwhelming evidence that she committed it.

When their "sex for drugs" allegations have been deflated, they fall back on the "no legitimate medical purpose" arguments. Now that those charges have been refuted too, their latest brief goes back to the sex.

If federal prosecutors did know about any of this new evidence at the time of the trial, they're guilty of prosecutorial misconduct. If they didn't, they're guilty of being duped by these five women. Of course, that's essentially the same thing for which they've convicted Dr. Rottschaefer.

"Dr. Rottschaefer got five years in a minimum security prison," says Siobhan Reynolds of the Pain Relief Network, an advocacy group for pain patients. "But he's still trying to get a new trial, even though if he's convicted, that sentence will be thrown out, and he could get 25 years or more. That seems like a risk someone would only take if he's innocent, doesn't it?"

That isn't a legal argument, of course. But outside the courtroom, it's a pretty persuasive one.

Radley Balko is a senior editor with Reason magazine. He publishes the weblog, TheAgitator.com.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Ian MacLeod||

    When an agency like the DOJ can attack forever, until a defendant runs out of money needed to defend themselves, they don't need to be breaking and twisting the law themselves, but they do it routinely anyway. The DEA and DOJ are rogue agencies and are totally out of control. They prosecute using "usual practice" which is defined by them - by attacking compassionate doctors who are following the Medical Standard of Care, which is what the latest textbook say to do, they force doctors to under-prescribe so that doctors "usually" do not do what they are medically and ethically required to do in simple self defense. And when a doctor DOES do what his profession requires, he is targeted. The DEA and DOJ are forcing and enforcing incorrect, substandard, damaging and deadly "care." They must be reined in somehow. There are an estimated 70 MILLION of us who are dying for lack of care!

  • Ian MacLeod||

    Damn. The response from all these concerned, involved citizens is just overwhelming. And on the last article here all they could talk about was "House." It's no damned wonder we're dying out here. People really DON'T give a rat's ass unless their own bull is gored, and then it's too late.

    Ian

  • Rick H.||

    Ian:

    This article is over two years old, and the website has had a major redesign since then. I would guess that several pages' worth of outraged comments probably didn't get carried into the new format.

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