Thursday, June 21, 2007

Former US Attorney Tom Graves told to back off of Medical Fraud Case

Former US Attorney Tom Graves said he also had trouble over Robert Courtney, a local pharmacist who was convicted diluting Cancer drugs. Graves said he wanted to sieze $10 million dollars from Courtney and give it to the victims. And when Washington balked, he said “I got angry.” Telling them, “I am not the US Attorney for Washington, I am the US Attorney for western Missouri.”

The Ninth Man Out: A Fired U.S. Attorney Tells His Story
By Murray Waas, HuffingtonPost.com. Posted June 7, 2007.
http://www.alternet.org/story/53370/?page=1

When a Kansas City pharmacist was convicted of diluting drugs for cancer patients, former U.S. Attorney Tom Graves thought the victims and their families should be compensated. The FBI thought otherwise.

Although none of the street agents and prosecutors would say it, they believed that Grave's experience clearly made him exactly the right prosecutor for this crime.
Ketchmark says: "Without his leadership, I don't know if the case would have made its way through the criminal justice system."
According to Ketchmark, because Courtney's victims were so numerous, Graves arranged for all of the victims and their families to watch Courtney's sentencing on closed circuit television. Everyone who wanted to make a victim impact statement got their say. Everyone got their phone calls returned almost immediately, sometimes personally by Graves.
One was Delia Chelston. When her physician prescribed Taxol to help her fight her ovarian cancer, she was already long familiar with the chemotherapy agent.
Delia was with her son, Patrick, years earlier during a doctor's visit when Patrick was fighting colon cancer and told he didn't have long to live. He wanted to spend just one more Christmas with his 4-year-old son. "Was it possible? What would it take?" mother and son asked the doctor. A single dose of Taxol might keep him alive until Christmas, but he would not have a very high quality of life.
Patrick told his doctor, according to Delia, "No. My 4-year old has seen enough."
Courtney filled six prescriptions for Taxol for Delia to treat her ovarian cancer. Courtney's pharmacy was reimbursed exactly $11,447 for each dose. Delia says: "For all I know, they were bags of saline and water."
Delia needed to witness Courtney's sentencing for herself.
When a contingent of men moved towards the front of the courtroom "with leather attache cases, cashmere overcoats, good-looking watches," Delia was unsure at first who exactly they were, or which side they were on. She felt empowered when one of these well-dressed men -- perhaps Graves, it is unclear -- stood up and said, "We represent the United States of America."
In contrast, Courtney entered the courtroom in "shackles looking like he was twelve years old."
Calm one moment, the next Delia burst into tears: "I suddenly realized he was a human being." All vulnerable like that. "And he looked like he was about my son's age." The realization that Courtney was a human being like her was what was so disturbing -- that a human being could do what Courtney did.
Delia Chelston's ovarian cancer is now long into remission and she now only has to check in with her doctor once a year.
But how can justice be meted out for someone like Robert Courtney? Courtney will likely spend 30 years in prison.
When another one of Courtney's patients, also battling ovarian cancer, sued him in a civil suit, she was awarded $578,881 for lost wages and her medical expenses -- and $2.2 billion in punitive damages.
What did she believe Courtney's punishment should be?
She said after the verdict: "If I had my wish, they would paint all of our pictures on his cellblock wall so that when he goes to sleep at night, we are the last thing he sees and when he wakes up in the morning, we are the first thing he sees."
Somewhere today, there is another kid with cancer, like Todd Graves once was, lying flat on their back in a dorm room or a hospital room. And it will be cold going into the vein. The nausea will be followed by vomiting and when there is nothing left in their stomach the dry retching will start. If it's nitrogen mustard or methorexate, it will leave a metallic taste in their mouth. The open surgical wound will not heal because of the chemo, and even if they somehow survive, the physical and psychological wounds may never entirely heal.
They will be all alone attempting to make sense out of the senseless.
And they will wonder whether they should just give in, to succumb. What with the odds so stacked against them, is it worth one more toxic violation of their person with nothing assumed and far less guaranteed?
But if you are Todd Graves, perhaps the senseless has long ago come to make perfect sense: When he looks at the four children he was never supposed to have; that he would someday stand up in court for Delia Chelston.
When she recently testified before Congress, Monica Goodling, the former counselor to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, suggested that the reason Graves was fired was not because he was loyal enough to the Bush administration but rather because he had been "under investigation" at the time of his dismissal. It was one last smack in the face. In reality, an internal Justice Department investigation had cleared him of specious allegations that he used a government car to go to a political event.
After surviving a cancer that nobody thought he would get through, Graves has the right perspective. He asks: "What possibly could Monica Goodling say about me that could have anything more than a passing consequence on my life?"

1 comment:

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