By Walter F. Roche Jr.
The judge presiding over the
criminal cases stemming from a deadly meningitis outbreak has flatly
rejected an appeal by prosecutors to reverse his dismissal of charges
against three defendants.
U.S. District Judge Richard Stearns
concluded that the reconsideration motion "for the most part raises no
new issues. It merely elaborates on arguments that it previously made."
said that despite the arguments by the U.S. Attorney, the charges
against Alla Stepanets, Kathy S. Chin and Michelle Thomas did not meet
the requirements of federal law.
In his original ruling Stearns, who presides in U.S. District Court in Boston, Mass.,
dismissed the charges against the three licensed pharmacists because he said they were merely
checking outgoing orders and not legally dispensing prescription drugs.
is nothing about this clerical task (as alleged) that calls upon the
professional judgment of a pharmacist," Stearns wrote.
were among 14 people indicted in late 2014 following a federal grand
jury probe of the 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak caused by fungus laden
steroids shipped from a now defunct Framingham, Mass. drug company, the
New England Compounding Center
Calling one of the arguments
by prosecutors "the latest red herring," Stearns scoffed at the idea
that his decision could endanger the public health.
"This of course is not true," he concluded.
also rejected what he described as the only new prosecution argument,
that the three should have known something illegal was going on because
some of the names on the prescriptions were clearly false.
is a dubious proposition," Stearns wrote."As the law has long made
clear, mere presence at the scene of a crime, even when coupled with
knowledge that a crime is being committed by others, is not sufficient
to establish aiding and abetting."
Though all charges against
Chin and Thomas were dismissed, Stepanets still faces trial on charges
of conspiracy to defraud the federal government.
Chin is the wife
of Glenn Chin, who was indicted on 25 counts of second degree murder in
the same case. Glenn Chin and Barry Cadden, a former part owner of NECC
who faces the same second degree murder charges, are scheduled for trial
early next year.