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Richard Johns Defense Asks Judge to Dismiss Indictment in Painkiller Case

2 min read

Defense attorneys have asked a federal judge to dismiss the indictment that accuses suspended Little Rock physician Richard Johns of illegally distributing the painkiller oxycodone, including the overdose that killed a young Cabot man.

At a minimum, attorneys Bud Cummins and Paul James hope to delay Johns’ trial, which is scheduled to start Jan. 23.

The motion to dismiss the seven-count indictment, filed Wednesday, argues that Johns has been deprived of his constitutional right to due process because state law has prevented him from using the state Prescription Monitoring Program’s database in his defense.

The request to dismiss the charges completely follows a hearing in October at which Johns’ defense argued that prosecutors should not be able to use data from the PMP because an overly broad search warrant was used to obtain Johns’ prescription records. U.S. District Judge Brian Miller has not ruled on that motion to suppress evidence.

State law has prevented Johns’ defense attorneys from accessing PMP data in order to determine whether any other physician might have prescribed the pills that “caused the death of another individual.”

Neither the indictment nor the recent defense filings identify the victim; Arkansas Business has determined that he was Curtis Michael Norris, 25, who died in Lonoke County in November 2014.

Johns’ defense attorney assert in their motion to dismiss the charges that he refused to write a prescription for the decedent on the day of his death, although he apparently had previously. According to the defense, the only pill bottle with Johns’ name on it was found empty and in the possession of a third party.

“The ‘causing the death of’ count is virtually impossible to prove if another doctor was also writing oxycodone prescription for the decedent or for others who made their pills available to the decedent,” Cummins and James argue in the motion to dismiss the indictment.

The assistant U.S. attorneys prosecuting the case, Anne E. Gardner and Cameron Charles McCree, had not responded to the motion to dismiss by Monday morning. The motion to delay the trial says the prosecutors do not object to pushing the trial back to a later date, but Miller had not ruled on the request.

Eighteen other defendants are charged with Johns in the conspiracy to possess and distribute oxycodone, and five of them have so far agreed to plead guilty. Johns, the only physician among the alleged conspirators, is the only one charged with the additional six counts of distributing oxycodone.

Johns was originally charged with 187 counts of prescription drug fraud in Lonoke County in May 2015 after an investigation prompted by Norris’ death. Those state charges were dropped after federal prosecutors indicted him and the others in September 2015.

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