Judge Delays Casper Prescription Drug Trial After Defendant Falls Ill
U.S. District Court Judge Alan Johnson dismissed the jury for the day after defendant Nabeel Kahn fell ill during the multi-state prescription drug trial in federal court in Casper on Thursday.
Nabeel Kahn reportedly was taken to the Natrona County Detention Center for an evaluation by a nurse, and a defense attorney later said that he was just under the weather.
The jury had been recessed, and was brought back into the courtroom to hear Johnson say that a trial of this length probably will have someone get sick and disrupt the proceedings, he said before recessing the jury for lunch.
After lunch, Johnson told the jury, the trial participants and those in the gallery that the trial would resume at 8:30 a.m. Friday.
The wasn't just about Nabeel Kahn's health, either, because his absence raised a constitutional matter, he said.
The Sixth Amendment says a person accused of a crime has the right, among other rights, to be confronted by the witnesses accusing them, Johnson said.
That means Nabeel Kahn needs to be in the courtroom to hear witnesses' testimony and the attorneys questioning them, he said.
Earlier in the day, the prosecution rested its case against the Kahn brothers.
For its first witness, the defense called Dr. Katherine Raven to discuss Shakeel Kahn's prescribing practices by way of teleconference.
However, Raven lives in Nevada and told the court she had to travel through a snowstorm to Sacramento, Calif., on Thursday afternoon, and neither she nor the defense attorneys knew when the interview could be rescheduled.
That further complicated how Johnson would proceed, he said. "We have a lot of balls up in the air right now."
The federal government has charged Shakeel Kahn with prescribing controlled substances outside the standard of care resulting in death, operating a continuing criminal enterprise, having a firearm during a drug crime, money laundering, and using a telephone for a criminal purpose.
If convicted on all counts, Shakeel Kahn faces 45 years to life imprisonment.
Nabeel Kahn [sometimes spelled Khan] face 27 years to life imprisonment if he is convicted of the charges against him -- prescribing controlled substances outside the standard of care resulting in death and brandishing a firearm during a drug crime.
Three defendants, including Shakeel Kahn's wife Lyn Kahn, have pleaded guilty and testified on behalf of the prosecution.
Lyn Kahn pleaded guilty the day before the trial started on April 25th, and she agreed to testify for the government in exchange for a prison sentence of no more than two years. She could have faced a sentence of up to 20 years.
"I know what I did was wrong," she told Johnson.
She pleaded guilty to conspiracy to dispense and distribute oxycodone, alprazolam [Xanax], hydromorphone [Dilaudid] and carisoprodol [Soma]. The conspiracy allegedly was with her husband and Nabeel Kahn.
Tuesday, Lyn Kahn told the jury that she helped him change patient records before he handed them over to the Arizona Board of Medicine in 2015 .
The Board of Medicine was investigating her husband for irregularities in prescribing opioids and other drugs, so she and he would get patient charts from three and four years earlier and add suggestions that patients receive physical therapy or other treatment besides the prescriptions.
She told federal prosecutor Stephanie Hambrick the purpose was to make the charts look better.
The Arizona Board of Medicine suspended Shakeel Kahn’s license in August 2016, three months before the Wyoming Board of Medicine did the same in November when she and he were arrested for conspiracy to distribute oxycodone.
She said she was married when she first met Shakeel Kahn in 2007, later divorced her husband and married Shakeel in 2014, and worked in his office in Arizona and later at his office in Casper.
Until confronted with the evidence that led her to change her plea, she said she firmly believed that she and her husband were doing nothing wrong, and that the lead prosecutor in the case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Sprecher, was unjustly out to get them.
During the cross-examination by Shakeel Kahn's attorney Beau Brindley, she wrote to her husband saying, "We need to stop this damned bitch and her gang of thugs."
Lyn Kahn also told Brindley that she loved Shakeel, and that she never lied during the case.
But Brindley said her guilty plea showed that she knew what she was doing was wrong, and that she betrayed her husband by her testimony.