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Florida jury acquits four of "pill mill" drug charges

When does a doctor cross the line between writing legitimate prescriptions for patients and illegal drug trafficking? That was the question a Florida federal court jury wrestled with recently as three doctors and an investor in their clinics were tried on federal drug charges. Fortunately for the four defendants, the jury found all of them not guilty on all counts.

The four were accused of running three "pill mills" - pain clinics which prosecutors claimed were set up to sell prescription drugs to addicts. Prosecutors alleged that the three doctors wrote thousands of prescriptions, many to addicts who did not need medication for pain. The four faced charges of drug manufacturing and distribution. Three of the four also faced money laundering charges.

But defense lawyers were able to tell the jury another side of the story. They pointed out that their clients did not uniformly prescribe the most expensive medications, or the maximum dosage. They did in fact turn away some patients who were addicts and who did not really need pain medication.

The prosecution's star witness was the man who set up the clinics, who had already pleaded guilty to drug distribution in the case. But defense attorneys successfully attacked his credibility, showing the jury that the man was a con artist who took advantage of the doctors just as he took advantage of addicts.

The trial lasted three weeks and the jury deliberated for almost three full days before finding all four defendants not guilty.

In any criminal case the prosecution must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The defense in this case successfully persuaded the jury that the government simply had not met its burden of proof.

Source: Florida Times-Union, "Jacksonville pill mill doctors, investor found not guilty on all charges," Larry Hannan, April 11, 2013

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