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Hurwitz Found Guilty Of Trafficking

Mixed Verdict But Bad News Overall For Dr. William Hurwitz

Though acquitted on several charges, former pain specialist Dr. William Hurwitz was found guilty on a number of drug trafficking charges in his retrial in federal court. The Washington Post reported on April 28, 2007 ("Pain Doctor Is Guilty Of Drug Trafficking") that "Federal jurors in Alexandria found William E. Hurwitz guilty of 16 counts of drug trafficking, determining that he prescribed massive quantities of medicine to patients in chronic pain. The 12-member jury acquitted Hurwitz on 17 other trafficking counts, but Hurwitz faces up to 20 years in prison for each count on which he was convicted. He will be sentenced July 13. U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema dismissed the remaining 12 counts, saying she did not want jurors to have to come back Wednesday to resume deliberations, prosecutors said. The jury would have been unable to deliberate sooner than that because a juror had travel plans. The verdict marked perhaps the final step in the long legal and medical odyssey of Hurwitz, a major figure in the growing field of pain management who was once profiled on '60 Minutes.' He was convicted on similar charges in U.S. District Court in 2004, but an appeals court threw out that verdict. Yesterday's conviction came after a retrial."

According to the Post, "Richard Sauber, a lawyer for Hurwitz, said defense attorneys are 'disappointed in the verdict. We think that Dr. Hurwitz was a doctor first and foremost and not a drug dealer.' He added that Hurwitz 'saved a number of lives.' Sauber said he did not know whether the defense would appeal. Last week, Brinkema dismissed the counts involving the patient who died and the two who were seriously injured, leaving 45 counts for the jury to decide. During the four-week retrial, prosecutors argued that Hurwitz was a common drug dealer whose McLean waiting room was filled with sleeping and incoherent patients with track marks on their arms. The prosecution presented 41 witnesses, including 12 former patients who had been convicted of drug crimes. 'He crossed the line from a healer to a dealer,' Assistant U.S. Attorney Gene Rossi told the jury in closing arguments April 18. Defense lawyers presented testimony from 10 former patients of Hurwitz. The defense portrayed him as a medical pioneer, a caring and courageous doctor who just wanted to help people in unbearable pain."

The Post noted that "In the first trial, jurors convicted Hurwitz on 50 counts -- including trafficking that caused the death of one patient and seriously injured two others. They acquitted him of nine counts and deadlocked on the final three in a 62-count indictment. Hurwitz was sentenced to 25 years in prison. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit overturned that verdict last year and granted Hurwitz a new trial. A three-judge panel ruled that prosecutors had presented 'powerful evidence' but that U.S. District Judge Leonard D. Wexler improperly told jurors that they could not consider whether Hurwitz acted in 'good faith' when he prescribed the large doses of medicine."

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