Wednesday, January 27, 2016
NECC Criminal Trial Delayed Five Months
By Walter F. Roche Jr.
Amid a dispute over the review of thousands of internal emails, the trial of owners and employees of the defunct New England Compounding Center has been put off for five months till September of this year.
The delay came Wednesday in a status hearing on the criminal charges brought by a federal grand jury against former owners and employees of NECC, the Framingham, Mass. company blamed for a nationwide fungal meningitis outbreak that took the lives of 76 patients in 20 states.
U.S. District Judge Richard Stearns announced he would issue an order setting the new September date following a hearing in which attorneys for both sides presented arguments about the review of some 600,000 thousand pages of NECC internal emails which were seized in 2012 in a raid on the drug compounding firm's offices.
The trial had been scheduled to begin April 4 in Boston, Mass.
Christina Sterling, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, confirmed Wednesday that Stearns agreed to set an exact date for the trial in a coming order.
Federal prosecutors are appealing a magistrate judge's order that government screening teams quickly complete a review of the emails to determine if they contain privileged information. Defense lawyers also argued the emails could contain exculpatory information that would aid in the defense of their clients.
A federal grand jury handed up indictments of 14 former NECC employees and owners in December of 2014 with charges ranging from racketeering to mail and wire fraud to second degree murder.
State and federal regulators have concluded that NECC caused the 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak by shipping thousands of fungus riddled vials of steroid drugs earmarked for injection into the spines and joints of patients.
Overall some 778 patients were sickened, some suffering fatal strokes.
In separate legal proceedings a $200 million trust fund has been established for victims and some creditors of NECC.