Monday, December 21, 2015
U.S. Attorney Seeks to Block Meningitis Depositions
By Walter F. Roche Jr.
Citing the possibility it could jeopardize a pending criminal case, the U.S. Attorney in Boston, Mass. is asking a judge to delay depositions of a former employee of the firm blamed for a fatal meningitis outbreak.
In a filing made last week U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said that depositions, which are being sought in pending civil cases, should be delayed until after the criminal trial of a key defendant, Barry Cadden, who is facing 25 counts of second degree murder.
Cadden was the top pharmacist and part owner of the New England Compounding Center, the defunct Framingham, Mass. firm blamed for a 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak that sickened 778 patients across the country. Seventy-six of those patients died.
Prosecutors contend that scheduled depositions of former NECC salesman John Notarianni and Joseph Connolly could result in Cadden and his attorneys gaining access to information in the upcoming criminal case. Cadden and 13 other defendants are scheduled to go on trial next Spring.
According to the filing, prosecutors also filed a sealed memorandum backing its argument for blocking the depositions, at least temporarily.
The prosecutors described Connolly and Notarianni as "potential important witnesses" in the criminal case. Notarianni was an NECC salesman who handled the NECC account, records in the civil cases show. Connolly's role has not been disclosed.
Scott Connolly, a former NECC pharmacist, is one of the defendants in the criminal case along with Cadden and a dozen other owners and employees.
"Depositions of witnesses about important issues in the criminal case, including NECC's clean room practices and Medical Sales Management sales tactics ... could potentially harm the criminal case," the filing states.
Prosecutors charged that Cadden already "has publicly confirmed his efforts to use the discovery process to circumvent the criminal discovery process. The court should not allow a criminal defendant to abuse the civil process in this way."
The brief states that prosecutors expect lawyers for the Saint Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgical Center and related parties to question the two witnesses "on the same topics that the government intends to elicit from them at trial."
The Saint Thomas clinic is a defendant in dozens of the civil suits brought by victims of the outbreak who were injected with fungus laden NECC steroids in 2012.
Under a recently disclosed schedule, those cases, which have been merged in U.S. District Court in Boston, Mass., will not go to trial until next Spring, about the same time set for the criminal case.