The Wall Street Journal on June 13, 2015, published an Op-Ed piece written by prominent Boston criminal defense and civil rights attorney Harvey Silverglate commenting on the recent acquittal of Dr. Joseph Zolot and Nurse Practitioner Lisa Pliner on multiple counts of alleged violations of federal conspiracy and drug distribution laws.
Dr. Zolot was represented by Todd & Weld attorneys Howard M. Cooper, Benjamin J. Wish, and Hillary A. Lehmann and was acquitted after a 26-day trial.
In the WSJ opinion article, attorney Silverglate questions the legitmacy of federal drug prosecutors using drug laws to prosecute pain physicians where there is little, if any, guidance given to physicians about the line between legitimate medical treatment and improper prescribing.
"This prosecution," Silverglate writes, " shows why drug warriors need either to clarify the currently indecipherable line between treating pain and unlawfully feeding drug addicts’ habits, or get out of the business of policing and terrorizing physicians. Unfortunately, the government uses legal ambiguity for tactical advantage and will not readily clarify the lines it expects doctors to follow at their peril."
Dr. Zolot was a Needham, Mass.-based pain medicine physician whose office was raided by the government in May 2007, after which he was indicted on multiple counts of unlawfully prescribing opioids such as OxyContin, Fentanyl and Methadone to patients. Nurse Pliner was accused of participating in the drug dealing operation. A first trial resulted in a hung jury, after which U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz decided to retry the case.
Following his acquittal, Dr. Zolot publicly expressed his hope that the verdict would help doctors feel less intimidated by the federal government in treating patients who are in chronic pain with available pain medications.