Even a Bush appointee can only take so much!

Federal Prosecutor Tanya Treadway probably has a fairly sweet life. Unlike many pain patients, her days probably don't involve a lot of worry about money or insurance. Her days are probably filled with a lot less agony than the former patients of Dr. Stephen Schneider, who is no longer treating them because Treadway is prosecuting Dr. Schneider for prescribing their pain medication. Nonetheless, the case Treadway is working in Kansas has taken some unexpected turns. On several occasions she has been faced with surprises from uppity defendants, some silly activists, and now... a Federal Judge. The judge has in so many words told Treadway that he will not be swayed by her threats, and to wipe the grin off her face!

From The Fort Mill Times:

In a contentious hearing Monday, Belot scolded Assistant U.S. Attorney Tanya Treadway for making what he termed "a government threat" to appeal his decision limiting the case to four deaths.
"Nobody threatens me in this courtroom," Belot said.

More below...

The judge also ordered the prosecutors to stop using inflammatory terms like "pill mill" in describing Dr. Schneider's practice.

Dr. Schneider and his wife, Linda, are unusual defendants for this type of case. Generally, doctors attacked by drug warriors follow the conventional wisdom of rolling over and hoping for the best. They are advised to show contrition while obediently awaiting the prosecutor's offer. If they are lucky, that offer will simply mean the destruction of their professional lives and a future filled with poverty, shame and despair. If they are not so lucky it means decades in prison. But nothing is as dangerous as actually fighting back.

Treadway's defendants wouldn't behave. They had the audacity to go to trial. Then they got a lot of help from an activist organization which monitors prosecutions of doctors who treat pain. They got some good lawyers, and they plead not guilty. Those silly activists and attorneys helped the doctor and his wife regain their self-respect, and helped them realize they had done nothing wrong. Apparently, Treadway was so angered by all these shenanigans that she asked the court to remove the defendants' attorneys. In that request she claimed the activist organization was "practicing law" from behind the scenes and wrongfully convincing these defendants to assert their constitutional rights. From her perspective, the defendants needed a proper lawyer who would obediently await her plea offer and stop all this subversive nonsense about her charges being false.

In their standard procedures for whacking a physician, the prosecutors began the case by sending out frequent e-mail reports to aid the local media in writing about the "pill mill" and the doctor who was a "butcher". This procedure assures properly one-sided press coverage and a good, predictable pre-conditioned jury pool. Compliant conservative journalists printed the stories as if it were an open and shut case, either failing to quote the defendant's side of the story at all, or tagging some abbreviated response onto the end of their article which read something like "as they all say". Then those silly activists started talking to reporters themselves. That's when Tanya Treadway went ballistic. She asked the judge for a gag order, because obviously the only people who have any business talking to the press in such cases are the prosecutors. When defendants start talking to reporters, it messes up the procedure by causing things like doubt about the validity of the prosecutor's claims. Again, the judge wouldn't go along.

Now, Treadway seems to have really...what can I say...pissed off Judge Monti Belot. Judge Belot seemed to think that there was no reason to charge Dr. Schneider with the death of every medical patient who has ever died anywhere, and to spend the next few years hearing the case. The judge seemed to think if the prosecution could prove that Dr. Schneider was responsible for the deaths of three patients, then that would be enough for justice to ensue. Treadway didn't agree, evidently so strongly that the judge wants to speak to her boss.

The government is proceeding with the appeal.. Hopefully, this will not end tragically for the Schneiders. Either way, we owe a tremendous amount of respect to defendants like Dr. Schneider and Linda, because they keep the flame from going out. They remind us that something is very wrong. They remind us that things have become too easy for people like Tanya Treadway, and that it has been that way for so long that she actually expects it.

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    Ah, the goings-on in Wichita! (none / 0) (#1)
    by ytterby on Wed Jan 28, 2009 at 07:36:13 AM EST
    It's interesting to me that when this case is on the local media (about every day), the reports stress that the case is about "over-prescribing medication resulting in the deaths of 59 people". The intent seems to be to suggest that this is a murder trial.  To the best of my knowledge, murder isn't a Federal crime yet this case is in the Federal courts.

    The Schneider's have lost their clinic. It was foreclosed on a couple of weeks ago. Linda Schneider has been in jail since the beginning of this thing because she's a "flight risk".

    When Judge Belot ruled that they could only present evidence in 4 of the deaths, the prosecutor apparently used language that ruffled his feathers. His comment was essentially, "That sounds like a threat and nobody threatens me in my courtroom."

    The defense has asked to be allowed to present evidence from 900 other patients who didn't die, but that was denied.

    A doctor who prescribes medication to sick people, and some of them die. Who ever woulda thought......

    What this appeal (none / 0) (#2)
    by JamesTX on Wed Jan 28, 2009 at 11:50:44 AM EST
    then amounts to is that Linda will stay in jail? I read that the evidence from the 900 patients was going to be admitted.

    What is so absurd about how they do this is that they assume that the doctor is responsible for the death simply by making the medication available. For all other medications, if death occurs due to misuse of the medication, that fact usually never sees the light of day. It wouldn't even make a civil suit. When you consider the rates at which patients die under a doctor's care under normal circumstances, most of the docs prosecuted for pain meds don't stand out at all.

    This idea that he caused the deaths is part of the same flawed reasoning the conservative movement has foisted on us in all substance related issues. If you are breaking a substance law, you are culpable for anything that happens within 100 miles of you. In the eyes of the law, you "caused" it. At first it was just a nasty "zero tolerance" attitude, with the thugs being proud that they had twisted justice in their favor, but they knew that it was logically flawed. They weren't interested in the idea being true, they were just interested in being mean. "Cause" was not just a long shot, it was impossible to claim in most cases. But this has been going on for long enough that younger people, who never knew anything different, actually see it as an actual causal relationship. I teach social science research methods, and I have found that kids are more and more confused nowadays about what "cause" means, because they have to incorporate the legal drug war use of it into their everyday use of it. It is a throwback to societies that believed things like misbehavior causing earthquakes.

    Some details (none / 0) (#3)
    by Jacob Freeze on Wed Jan 28, 2009 at 11:12:21 PM EST
    From Letter of Apology.com...

    To give you an idea of how professional AUSA Tanya Treadway is, take a look at the first paragraph of the original speaking indictment in U.S. v. Schneider, a health care fraud and controlled substances case being brought in the District of Kansas: "Defendant Stephen J. Schneider is a doctor of osteopathic medicine, licensed in Kansas, and board certified in family medicine. Prior to becoming a doctor, he was a butcher." No, I'm not making this up. The Superseding Indictment, a kitchen-sink affair, is also full of gratuitous, prejudicial verbiage, including community nicknames for Dr. Schneider. U.S. District Judge Monti Belot, not particularly known as a champion of defendants' rights, has apparently had enough of Treadway's tactics. He restricted the Government's use of certain words and phrases contained in the Superseding Indictment and threw out a good deal of the Government's proposed evidence, in pre-trial rulings on Monday.

    Thanks for the (none / 0) (#4)
    by JamesTX on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 12:27:58 AM EST
    references. It is interesting that this case has some peculiarities that point to many similar cases. There is a conflict of interest issue brewing about consultants working both the civil suits against Schneider and working for Treadway. That brings up an underlying issue about many of these pain doctor busts. There is a lot of financial motivation to whack doctors on this charge because it opens up the civil liability for disgruntled patients and opportunistic heirs. I think there may be even more to suggest that the charges stem more from financial complaints somehow funneled to the prosecutors than from community complaints about drugs. The other thing these prosecutions accomplish is they stop doctors running big practices that serve a class of patients which, let's say, the payers might think need a lot less care? The interaction between the civil cases and the criminal charges against these doctors is really something that needs a lot more attention.  

    Bizarre motions by the prosecurtion (none / 0) (#5)
    by Jacob Freeze on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 12:50:08 AM EST
    One of the many weird aspects of this case is the bizarre, extra-legal language in motions filed by the prosecution.

    Federal prosecutors claim the president of the Pain Relief Network of has a "parasitic" relationship with a Kansas physician indicted for running a "pill mill" linked to 56 deaths.

    "Ms. Reynolds may be in what could be best described as a sycophantic or parasitic relationship with the defendants," prosecutors argued in the motion. "By telling them what they want to hear, she is able to appear supportive and helpful, while using the defendants to further her own personal interests."

    This is more like a low-concept blog than a legal argument.

    I think you're absolutely right that "the charges stem more from financial complaints somehow funneled to the prosecutors than from community complaints about drugs."

    It would be very useful to know exactly how many "community complaints" about physicians over-prescribing pain medication the unspeakable Tanya Treadway could produce in open court, with appropriate safeguards of complainants' anonymity.


    The claim that (none / 0) (#7)
    by JamesTX on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 08:25:47 PM EST
    Siobhan Reynolds (President of PRN) is profiting or somehow gaining from this is absurd. Siobhan Reynolds is dedicated to this cause in a very personal and authentic way. She isn't gaining anything. She may look like an unknown nut case to Treadway, but that is because most of the cases where her work has paid off get credited to others. She works behind the scenes. She has been involved, and very instrumental, in some high profile cases that had good outcomes.

    She works out of a sense of personal dedication, and she is probably one of the most talented, knowledgeable and skilled people working in the very narrow field of opioid prohibition and its effects on pain patients. She knows the law, and has seen enough of these cases in person to know what is going on better than anyone else. She isn't practicing law. She is defending and supporting pain patients. When they prosecute these doctors, the patients are the ones who suffer. In fact, Siobhan's first action in this case was to help organize a group of patients to  file suit to stop the government from closing the clinic, so that the patients' care wouldn't be interrupted. When people who are on opioid therapy lose their doctor to drug charges, it is almost impossible for them to get care elsewhere, even if their medical needs are obvious and not questionable. That is because the doctors are afraid the agents will follow the patients to their next doctor, and they don't want the scrutiny. That is where Siobhan's interests are, and that is why doctors like her and respect her. She cares about patients, and takes risks and sacrifices to help them.

    This isn't Siobhan's first rodeo. I can understand why Treadway wants her out of the picture, because Treadway wouldn't have a chance in a debate with her on this issue, and doesn't have half of her knowledge (even legal knowledge). Treadway's strategy is understandable -- get rid of Siobhan at any cost!


    Update (none / 0) (#6)
    by ytterby on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 09:41:01 AM EST
    The prosecution is going ahead with an appeal on Judge Belot's ruling to restrict the trial to four deaths. The defense is opposing the appeal, saying they're ready to go ahead.

    So, the Tenth Circuit will get the appeal and the trial is on hold until they rule.

    In the meantime, the defense has filed another motion to have Linda Schneider released from jail pending trial. She's been inside for 13 months.

    I sure hope (none / 0) (#8)
    by JamesTX on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 10:19:48 PM EST
    they will release her. She should have the right to be tried or released. I am not a lawyer, but I think the American people are sort of supportive of that concept nowadays.