Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Amateur Hour As Jury Convicts Pill Doctor

By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

It was a fitting end to a bizarre trial that featured a novice judge and a pill-pushing doctor who insisted on representing himself as his own lawyer.

It took the jury an incredible two hours tonight to read a verdict that found the doctor who allegedly ran a pill mill that catered to outlaw bikers and strippers guilty on 123 out of 127 counts.

Why did it take two hours? Because Judge Nitza Quinones, who was confirmed in June 2013 and has had limited experience presiding over federal criminal trials, had the court clerk read every word of every count out loud, including all the relevant titles, codes and statutes, and then ask the jury foreman whether the jury had reached a unanimous verdict on each count of guilty or not guilty.

As a result, the court clerk stated a mind-numbing 121 times that Dr. William J. O'Brien 3d was accused of violating Title 21 of the United States Code, Section 841, by distributing controlled substances while operating "outside the usual course of medical practice," and prescribing controlled substances for "no legitimate medical purpose." Amateur hour continued when the court clerk polled the jury, and read the name of every juror out loud, rather that follow the usual custom and refer to jurors by numbers.

By the end of the reading of the two hour verdict, one juror was slumped over; others were dazed and staring off into space. Court observers were shaking their heads and saying they had never seen anything like it.

The bizarre climax to the trial threatened to overshadow the fate of Dr. O'Brien. A jury of six men and six women, deliberating for just a day, found the doctor guilty on 123 out of 127 counts.

The jury found Dr. O'Brien guilty on two counts of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, 117 counts of distribution of controlled substances, as well as guilty on one count of money laundering, guilty on one count of conspiracy to commit bankruptcy fraud, and guilty on one count of making a false oath during bankruptcy proceedings.

But the most serious charge the jury found the doctor guilty of was Count 124, distribution of a controlled substance resulting in the death of a patient.

Joseph Ennis of Levittown, who originally went to see Dr. O'Brien after he hurt his back, was found dead in his bedroom on December 2013, by a relative. Days earlier, according to the federal indictment, Dr. O'Brien had written Ennis prescriptions for oxycodone, methadone and cyclobenzaprine "for no legitimate medical purpose."

The charge of distributing a controlled substance resulting in the death of a patient carries a mandatory sentence of 20 years, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney M. Beth Leahy.

"Oh God, that's horrible," O'Brien's mother said in the courtroom when the jury foreman read the verdict on Count 124.

O'Brien stayed calm during the reading of the verdict. At times, he cradled his face in one hand. Another time, he put his head down on the defense table. Sometimes he talked to the lawyer appointed by the court to assist in his defense. Sometimes, he turned around and stared at his mother, to see if she was all right.

The judge sent sentencing for Oct. 5th.

"Dr. O'Brien, we will see you in the near future," the judge told the defendant.

"Thank you, Your Honor," replied the defendant, as he was led in handcuffs back to jail, where he has been held for the past eighteen months and has lost a hundred pounds.

"Have a good night," the doctor told the judge.

The prosecutor told reporters she was happy with the verdict.

"The evidence was overwhelming in this case," she said. "At the end of the day, justice prevailed."

Asked if she had ever seen a court clerk read every word of every charge before, the prosecutor replied, "I really can't even say."

Asked if she had ever seen a court clerk read the names of jurors in court, the prosecutor replied, "I've never seen that before."

Adding to the mayhem, the prosecutor in court accused a companion of O'Brien's mother of writing down the names of jurors, as they were recited by the clerk, for possibly nefarious purposes. The judge responded by having the clerk confiscate the list of jurors.

O'Brien's mother was subdued as she left the courtroom. "I really have nothing to say," she said. "I don't believe my son is guilty."

During a five-week trial, the prosecution had alleged that Dr. O'Brien had pocketed $1.8 million over three years by writing prescriptions for fake patients who were part of a pill mill operation set up by members of the Pagans outlaw motorcycle gang.

The government contended that some Pagans were making $10,000-a-week selling drugs like oxycodone, methadone, Xanax and Percocet that O'Brien had prescribed for clients recruited by the Pagans. The government alleged that Dr. O'Brien was paid $200 per visit to do little more than write a prescription. The fake patients made about $500 each after having their prescriptions filled and turning the drugs over to the Pagans and their associates, guys with nicknames such as "Redneck" and "Tomato Pie."

Throughout the trial, the judge, who seemed like an incredibly kind person, gave the defendant plenty of leeway to play defense lawyer. That leeway resulted in many bizarre exchanges between the doctor and the government's witnesses, as well as some incredibly long cross-examinations conducted by the doctor. But thanks to the freedom the judge gave the defendant, which many courtroom observers thought was excessive, it may be hard for any subsequent defense lawyer to find any appealable issues.

Today's court session began shortly before 10 a.m., when the judge locked the doors of the courtroom while she charged the jury for 90 minutes.

The jury got the case and began to deliberate shortly before 11:30. After lunch, the jury foreman sent four different questions to the judge. The questions were all about whether the judge could spell out persons named in the indictment who were involved in alleged criminal activities, but identified only by numbers.

In some cases when those persons were previously identified in court, the judge was happy to disclose their identities to the jury. Jurors also asked to see prescriptions for specific patients under the doctor's care.

The mood in the courtroom was light-hearted before the verdict came in.

"I was deathly sick this weekend," the defendant told the judge, after she complained about having a cold.

The doctor advised the judge to take three Advil every six hours.

"Still prescribing, huh?" the judge told the doctor.

"I am what I am, Your Honor," the doctor replied. He added that in jail, they wouldn't let him have any medication for his cold.

By 5:44 p.m., the clerk announced the jury had reached a verdict.

Dr. O'Brien seemed outwardly confident. He told the marshals that his mother would make chicken cutlets and spinach ravioli for them, presumably when he was released after being found not guilty on all the charges.

The jurors filed into the courtroom at 5:53 p.m. for the reading of the verdict, By the time the jury foreman was done, it was 8 p.m.

In contrast, it took only 13 minutes on June 21st for the jury in the Chaka Fattah case to find the congressman and four co-defendants guilty on 57 of 74 total charges in a 29-count indictment.

At the 2009 federal corruption trial of former state Senator Vincent J. Fumo, it took the jury foreman only 11 minutes to pronounce Fumo guilty on 137 counts.

The jurors in the pill doctor case may deserve medals for making it through this trial. Especially the jury foreman who was on her feet for two hours while the court clerk conducted her filibuster.

But if that two-hour verdict is upheld on appeal, the U.S. Attorney's Office won't have anything to complain about.


  1. Bulletproof. He was bulletproof. He must have been to think he would walk.

    If you ask me, the 2 hour verdict was no mistake, it was because O'Brien had done that same thing to th entire court. Also as you say - m I n d n u m b i n g.

  2. Never piss your barber off before you get a haircut... I think he will get a considerable number of years, but it's clear he needs everyone whether he admits it or not. He needs people to help him, and I think he will get that. Something like .. No beast so fierce but knows some touch of pity. But I know none, and therefore I am no beast.

  3. Big Trial thank you for covering that story.

  4. Dr O'Brien had a thriving legitimate medical practice..How he ever got involved in the RX writing ring , jeopardizing "everything" especially making less money than his co conspirators is the dumbest move he could have ever made, however, he doesn't deserve to rot in prison.
    He's not a threat to society, seriously!!!

    1. Why not he should get life ����

  5. thank you god for putting that fat pig in jail lol

  6. When I read this my heart sank. I knew the verdict was going to be guilty. But just reading it and having it sink in and know that he is a good man just caught up in the wrong crowd and made some wrong choices. My prayers go out to him and his family.

  7. Many wealthy and corrupt Defense Attorneys swear by the adage..." one who represents himself, may have a fool for a client."

    George Martorano served a sentence of life without parole after heeding that adage. Only a POTUS more corrupt than his Attorney, commuted that sentence.

    O'Brien will have plenty of time to work on his appeal, but he clearly saved his millions from the clutches of thieving lawyers.
    He also made a grave error practicing Pain Mgt. in Pa.

    In Cali his practice is legal and thrives, under the guise of Medicinal Marijuana.

  8. The doctor was not a nice man but a greedy and self centered man. So not gonna lie and say this didn't make my day cause it did! Thanks big trial great job covering this circus of a trial. Lesson should be learned don't play a lawyer if you didn't go to law school.

  9. I don't want to hear about nobody elses "corruption" is that supposed to white wash ..and sanitize matters? Two wrongs don't make a right. Simple, he was NEVER licensed to go past what is medically necessary..and I realize many of you youngsters think this country runs itself and it's one big self serving free for all and youre all entitled to whatever you can sneak under some radar, but the reality is ..if we tool authority down, if there was no FBI ABD THE OTHER PUBLIC SAFETY CREW...we'd spin into chaos anarchy and NONE OF YOU NOT EVEN THE LYING DEFENDANT, WOULD WANT TO LUVE HERE.

    YES I like these lawyers reporting on here. I like how easy it is to read. I can almost hear inflection in the writings.

    Yea sure compared to some - O'Brien doesn't look so bad, but compared to the character of our founding giants then he comes up wanting. You will notice he was in our founding fathers court room and what did they say?

    Corruption should be taken down, not used as the new standard or bench mark. That's what you call moving the old landmarks.

    I sware to you sinners every wrong deed every sin, is being wrote down. We still trust in God. And you can believe he's coming for you.

    God uses NEN to dispense justice

  10. As a former patient of his, not for pain management, I had been to 2 other doctors who didn't help me at all... He approach to my disease lead me to life without this disease. He studied my disease and came up with a plan and in 18 months I was cured. When I seen another doctor after who said there was nothing they could do and I told them i was cured they were amazed. Maybe he was guilty of something but he is an amazing Doctor. And if you knew him he didn't live an extravagant lifestyle like most of the other doctors I see in their Mercedes at their beach front properties, Dr.Bill drove a mini-van...

    1. All the years I have known him he sure didn't own a minivan he always drive a luxury kind of car! He's not God either. Would never go that far... He probably helped a patient or two along the way others he well... His trial spoke for itself

    2. Clown belongs in jail, for a very very long time.

  11. He was a brilliant Dr. who sadly got caught up with "patients" who took advantage and ultimately ended up controlling him. Very SAD!!!

  12. What are you gonna do now Napoleon

  13. Bobby simone. Was martoranos lawyer

  14. Anything on O'briens sentencing?


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