Charges stand in hep C case against former doctor

May 10, 2012, 10:14 PM

Associated Press

LAS VEGAS (AP) – A prominent former Las Vegas physician and state medical board member who operated clinics where health officials say patients became infected with hepatitis C in 2007 will face all 28 felony charges filed against him almost two years ago, a state court judge decided Thursday.

Having lost a nearly two-year battle to show he is physically and mentally unfit for trial, Dipak Desai sat impassively in the courtroom while Clark County District Court Judge Valerie Adair ruled the grand jury indictment met statutory and constitutional requirements.

Adair conceded the charges could have been clearer. But she rejected defense attorney Richard Wright’s argument that the 35-page indictment returned in June 2010 was unconstitutionally vague and confusing. Trial is scheduled in October.

Prosecutors allege that Desai directed a penny-pinching scheme at his Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada and Desert Shadow Endoscopy Center that included requiring staff to use anesthesia that remained in previously opened vials and to reuse colonoscopy scopes and bite plates from patient to patient during outpatient procedures.

Southern Nevada Health District officials in February 2008 began notifying more than 50,000 Desai patients to be tested for hepatitis and HIV. Authorities later determined that nine people contracted incurable hepatitis C, and said cases involving another 105 patients might have been related.

“It’s clear what they are charging,” the judge said Thursday. “They’re charging that these people were infected as a result of their treatment at the facility and as a result of the facility’s ongoing failure and disregard for appropriate medical and sanitary practices.”

Wright derided the charging language as “prosecution by multiple guess or mystery.” He accused prosecutors of alleging that hepatitis was transmitted “by methods unknown.”

The defense lawyer sought dismissal of 15 counts in the indictment, including a key racketeering charge and seven felony charges each of criminal patient neglect and disregard for patient safety.

Wright said allegations of a pattern and practice of business amounting to felony racketeering didn’t provide enough specificity for Desai and two former clinic nurse-anesthetists, Ronald Lakeman and Keith Mathahs, to mount defenses.

The three men are also charged with insurance fraud, theft and obtaining money under false pretenses. Each has pleaded not guilty.

“Principal? Aider and abettor? Conspirator? Which is he?” Wright asked. “This is not specific enough to determine what Desai is accused of doing on what date to what patient.”

Prosecutor Michael Staudaher countered that Desai was “the one who was running the show.”

“His specific role in these crimes overlaps. He is all of those things,” Staudaher said.

Staudaher and prosecutor Pamela Weckerly have turned back months of effort by Wright to have Desai declared mentally and physically unfit for trial due the effects of strokes in 2007 and 2008.

Attorneys Michael Cristalli and Frederick Santacroce, representing Lakeman and Mathas, watched Thursday’s arguments but didn’t take part. Desai’s wife, Kusum Desai, sat in the courtroom gallery.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

United States News

FILE - This 2003 electron microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Pr...
Associated Press

WHO panel says Monkeypox is not a global emergency ‘at this stage’

LONDON (AP) — The World Health Organization said the escalating monkeypox outbreak in more than 50 countries should be closely monitored but does not warrant being declared a global health emergency. In a statement Saturday, a WHO emergency committee said many aspects of the outbreak were “unusual” and acknowledged that monkeypox — which is endemic […]
19 hours ago
Police in riot gear surround the Arizona Capitol after protesters reached the front of the Arizona ...
Associated Press

Dueling narratives of Arizona protests ended with tear gas

PHOENIX (AP) — Protests outside the Arizona Capitol over the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade that ended with a volley of tear gas were variously described Saturday as either peaceful or driven by anarchists intent on destruction. Republican Senate President Karen Fann issued a news release describing it as a thwarted […]
19 hours ago
Emergency personnel look over the sight of a  helicopter that crashed in Blair, W.Va., on Thursday,...
Associated Press

West Virginia helicopter crash victims identified

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Medical examiners in West Virginia have released the names of six people killed in the crash of a Vietnam-era helicopter that gave tour rides. The aircraft crashed Wednesday during its last planned flight at an annual reunion for helicopter enthusiasts in Logan County. All six people aboard were killed. The state’s […]
19 hours ago
Associated Press

Army private’s plea shelved internet fantasy chat defense

NEW YORK (AP) — An Army private charged with plotting to murder members of his unit overseas with help from a secretive violent anarchist group was planning a defense calling it all an internet fantasy before pleading guilty just before trial, court records show. Plans for the defense of Ethan Phelan Melzer was revealed in […]
19 hours ago
Associated Press

Jury awards $21M to family of pregnant teen shot by police

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — A federal jury awarded $21 million to the family of a pregnant teen who was shot and killed by undercover police officers in Northern California five years ago, attorneys said. Elena Mondragon was a passenger in a BMW pulling out of a Hayward apartment complex when an unmarked van filled […]
19 hours ago
Associated Press

LAPD officer who died was beaten in training, mother claims

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A Los Angeles police officer who died of neck injuries suffered during training had been beaten by fellow officers in an exercise meant to “simulate a mob,” according to a wrongful-death claim filed against the city by his mother. Houston Tipping, 32, was hurt May 26 at the police academy and […]
19 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.
...
Arizona Division of Problem Gambling

Arizona Division of Problem Gambling provides exclusion solution for young sports bettors

Sports betting in Arizona opened a new world to young adults, one where putting down money on games was as easy as sending a text message.
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

ADHS mobile program brings COVID-19 vaccines and boosters to Arizonans

The Arizona Department of Health Services and partner agencies are providing even more widespread availability by making COVID-19 vaccines available in neighborhoods through trusted community partners.
Charges stand in hep C case against former doctor