By George Anastasia
She was six months pregnant with the ugly track marks of her heroin addiction running down both her arms.
She said she wanted methadone to help break her habit.
He said he'd write a script . . . for a blow job.
In some of the grittiest and personally damaging testimony to date, former strip club dancer Deanna Lane told a federal jury yesterday how she exchanged a "sexual favor" for medication in the office of William O'Brien 3d, the pain management doctor now on trial for conspiracy and drug dealing in what authorities say was a multi-million dollar pill mill operation.
"He locked the door," Lane, 28, said of the office visit late one afternoon back in September 2014.
Lane said previous visits for medications that included oxycodone and Xanax had come with a $200 co-pay. But on this day, O'Brien had a different currency in mind.
"He was standing with his back to the door," she said when asked by Assistant U.S. Attorney M. Beth Leahy to explain to the jury what happened. "I was on my knees."
She remembered that he wasn't wearing a belt, which she thought was odd. She said he wanted to ejaculate in her mouth. She refused. She said he wanted to have sexual intercourse with her. She said not without a condom. He didn't have one.
She left with the script for 180 methadone tablets.
Lane will be back on the stand when the trial resumes Monday after a two-day recess that began this morning. Now serving time in state prison for a retail theft conviction, she appeared in court dressed in a green prison jump suit. She had dark horn-rimmed glasses and short blonde hair. Soft spoken, she answered most of Leahy's questions with "yes ma'am" or "'no ma'am."
She said she was a dancer at The Fox, a gentleman's club in Bath, PA, run by O'Brien's cousin. She was the second dancer from that club to testify in the now four-week old trial. Her story was similar to that of several other prosecution witnesses who claimed that O'Brien was a willing part of a conspiracy in which he wrote scripts for controlled substances that he knew would be sold on the street.
Wednesday's court session ended with O'Brien, who is representing himself, cross-examining Lane. During the cross-examination, which is expected to resume Monday morning, Lane admitted that she appeared in a pornographic movie when she was 17; that she has two children, but that they are being raised by others; that she became pregnant for a second time while working as a dancer in Pompano Beach, and that she supported herself and her heroin habit (at one point 50 bags a day) by befriending men.
As he has throughout the trial, O'Brien tried to deflect the government's case by challenging the character and credibility of the prosecution's witnesses.
At least six of those witnesses are co-defendants in the pill mill case and have pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate in the hope of reducing their prison sentences. Lane did not fit that category.
She has not been charged in the current case and she said the government has made her no promises.
"I wanted to do the right thing," she said. "I'm not receiving anything."
She said she is no longer using heroin or prescription medications, but of her addiction, she said, "It's there and I battle it every day."
Lane, whose arrest record includes convictions for retail theft, drunk driving, disorderly conduct and simple assault, said she first visited O'Brien in July 2013, one of several dancers or workers from The Fox who became "patients."
She said she sold the pills to a club manager and, as another dancer testified, she said the oxycodone, Percocet and other medications O'Brien prescribed were sold by the pill at the club. Later, however, she said she sold her pills in order to buy heroin. And still later, she told the jury, she crushed the oxycodone tablets, diluted the powder in water and injected it directly into her veins.
Lane said when she first visited O'Brien, she was dating the manager of The Fox and that he had paid $200 for each visit. He would then pay her for the medications after she had the prescriptions filled. But after she and the manager broke up, she said, O'Brien told her he could no longer see her.
That was in October, 2013.
The following summer, strung out on heroin and 25-weeks pregnant, she went back to O'Brien seeking methadone. And ultimately exchanged a blow job for the pills. This was the second time the jury has heard a sex for scripts tale. Earlier the panel saw a secretly recorded video in which an undercover female FBI agent posing as a patient was solicited by O'Brien.
The agent declined his offer. Court documents and testimony have also indicated that several dancers from The Oasis, a Philadelphia strip club, exchanged sex for prescriptions. Whether they will appear as witnesses is unclear.
Four weeks into the trial, O'Brien has tried to build a defense around attacking the prosecution - "Do you trust the government?" is a question he has asked almost every witness -- and challenging the character and credibility of co-defendants and other cooperators like Lane who have testified against him.
But his cross-examinations are often unfocused and rambling. He has benefitted from a somewhat casual approach by Judge Nitza Quinones who has allowed him great leeway.
"It's a difficult position for any judge to be in," said one courthouse source. "When a defendant goes pro se (represents himself) a judge has to give him some space," But more than one observer has suggested that a more seasoned jurist would not have allowed O'Brien to continually tread the same ground. Quinones was confirmed in June 2013 and has had limited experience presiding over federal criminal trials.
Still, several people with knowledge of criminal proceedings say the nature of the case and the fact that O'Brien is representing himself create difficult management issues regardless of a judge's experience.
Then there is O'Brien's approach. Arrogant is one word that is often used to describe him.
"It's tough when you always think you're the smartest person in the room," said one courtroom observer.
Prior to Lane taking the stand Wednesday, O'Brien spent more than four hours cross-examining Angela Rongione, his former office manager. Rail thin, with dark hair, multiple tattoos and an attitude to match, Rongione never backed down in the verbal confrontation.
A good defense attorney knows that sometimes less is more. Especially with a hostile witness, a good lawyer tries to quickly make the points he needs to make while getting the witness off the stand as soon as possible.
O'Brien is a trained doctor, not a lawyer. And it's beginning to show.
Rongione is one of 10 co-defendants who have pleaded guilty. She admitted that she sold the drugs he prescribed to make money. She acknowledged that she knew and associated with members of the Pagans, the outlaw motorcycle gang that played a key role in the pill mill operation.
But the lengthy and tedious cross-examination allowed her to state and restate the issue at the heart of the prosecution's case.
"It was illegal," she said when she and O'Brien clashed over the prescriptions he was writing. "You know it was wrong. I know it was wrong."
At another point, defending her credibility, she said, "I'm under oath. You been lying all day long."
Or, in describing his practice: "It's all you did, narcotics, narcotics."
Or, "I pled guilty, something you should have done a long time ago . . . You are guilty. You are a drug dealer . . . You know what you did. Put it in your brain. You did wrong."
George Anastasia can be reached at George@bigtrial.net.