Friday, March 7, 2003

Doctor accused of pushing painkillers

Witness will explain it, prosecutor says

The Associated Press

VANCEBURG, Ky. - A government witness will testify at a trial that a doctor had a "drugs for money" scheme set up at his Vanceburg clinic, a prosecutor said.

Commonwealth's Attorney Clifford Duvall delivered his opening statement Wednesday in the trial of Dr. Fortune Williams.

Williams had been seeing a "physically impossible" number of patients during his 81/2-month tenure at First Care clinic, Duvall said.

A Lewis County grand jury brought a four-count indictment against Williams last June. Williams is charged with illegally prescribing controlled substances.

Duvall told the jury a government expert would testify "it was drugs for money," as Williams prescribed cocktails of painkillers and antidepressants for up to 150 patients a day. Assistants at the clinic filled out prescriptions for Williams to sign, Duvall said.

Defense attorney Bryan Underwood, a Maysville public defender, argued that Williams did not prescribe the pain-killers with criminal intent.

"There's absolutely no evidence that Dr. Williams had anything other than an intent to help his patients and he had no knowledge of any illegitimate drug usage," Underwood said.

The trial recessed Wednesday, and will resume Monday.

Williams, who lived in Covington, was one of a series of temporary doctors hired at a South Shore clinic after Dr. David Procter surrendered his license in late 1998.

At least four of the doctors, including Williams, were indicted on prescription-drug charges after leaving the clinic.

Underwood said the charges against his client are based on the filmed activities of one informant, whose credibility he intends to challenge.

"I just tried to keep the jury focused on one case without all these extraneous things the commonwealth wants to tie into," Underwood said.

Duvall said witnesses will testify that Williams at times was treating a patient a minute - at one point treating 93 patients in one morning.

"You can manipulate numbers any way," Underwood said in rebuttal. "Hopefully, that'll be brought out during the course of the trial."

Williams has been held in the Lewis County Jail since August under a $10,000 bond.

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