Friday, May 13, 2016
Judge Rules Racketeering Charges Stand in NECC Case
By Walter F. Roche Jr.
In a key ruling a federal judge has rejected an attempt to have racketeering charges dismissed against owners and employees of the company blamed for a deadly 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak.
In an 8-page decision U.S. District Judge Richard Stearns concluded that the defendants will have to face the racketeering charges when the case comes to trial this fall.
While acknowledging that the theory of prosecutors in bringing the charges was somewhat novel, Stearns concluded it was not without precedent.
"I agree with the government that the indictment passes muster," Stearns wrote in the case pending in U.S. District Court in Boston, Mass.
The decision comes in a massive indictment stemming from the 2012 fatal fungal meningitis outbreak that sickened 778 patients, killing 76 of them.
The 131-count indictment charges two of the defendants, Barry Cadden and Glenn Chin, with 25 counts of second degree murder. In addition to the racketeering charges, all 14 defendants face mail and wire fraud charges.
The defendants had sought to have 92 of the charges dismissed.
Lawyers for the defendants had challenged the legality of the racketeering charges because they hinged on sterility standards set by a non-government agency, the United States Pharmacopeia Convention.
Some legal commentators had labeled the indictment "an unprecedented approach to regulatory violations."
Cadden was part owner of the New England Compounding Center, the firm blamed for the 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak and Chin was the chief pharmacist. The defunct company shipped thousands of vials of fungus infested methylprednisolone acetate to health care providers across the country.
The tainted drugs, which were supposed to be sterile, were injected into the spines and joints of thousands of patients in at least 20 states.
In his decision, Stearns said he agreed with the argument of defendants that prosecutors should be barred from claiming the U. S. Pharmacopeia standards had the force of law, but noted that prosecutors had stated they did not intend to do so.
"The defendants are not charged with violating the USP but rather are charged with perpetrating a scheme to defraud customers based on misrepresenting NECC's compliance with the USP," the ruling concludes.
Still pending before Stearns is a motion to dismiss the second degree murder charges.