Sunday, April 29, 2007

Dr. Hurwitz Convicted on 16 Counts of Drug Trafficking

Dr. Hurwitz Convicted on 16 Counts of Drug Trafficking

By John Tierney

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – After deliberating for seven days in federal court here, a jury late this afternoon found Dr. William Hurwitz guilty on 16 counts of drug trafficking. Dr. Hurwitz, whose legal battles over his opioid prescriptions made him a hero to some chronic-pain patients, was not convicted on the other 29 counts against him.

The bad news for Dr. Hurwitz (and his many supporters who have been posting here) is that he remains in prison and will be sentenced on July 13 for writing prescriptions of OxyContin and other opioids to drug dealers and addicts. But his prospects are certainly better than they were after his first trial in 2004, when he was convicted on 50 counts related to drug trafficking, including several with mandatory 20-year sentences for causing bodily injury or death. He was sentenced to 25 years following that conviction (which was overturned on appeal, resulting in a retrial that lasted more than a month).

The counts on which he was convicted today each carry a 20-year maximum sentence and no minimum requirement, giving Judge Leonie M. Brinkema great discretion in sentencing. She could sentence him to as little as the time already served by him, two and a half years, which would be longer than the prison terms of some of his patients who were caught peddling the drugs he prescribed to them.

After the judge in this trial dismissed the most serious charges (involving bodily injury or death) against Dr. Hurwitz, there were 45 counts remaining for the jury to deliberate. They found him guilty on 16 counts and acquitted him on 17. They said they were unable to reach a verdict on the remaining 12 counts, which were then dismissed by the judge.

One of the jurors left the courthouse in tears, and others whom I talked to said it had been a wrenching decision for all of them because they believed Dr. Hurwitz was a compassionate doctor.

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