This weekender you are updatered on: the state's highest court ruling in favor of the Orange County Fire Authority; a state appellate panel upholding the convictions of three insurance scammers; an Orange County judge sending two men to prison for decades for molesting three boys ages 7-11; another OC judge halting a government lawsuit against five of the world's largest narcotics manufacturers; and a federal jury finding a doctor known as the "Candy Man" guilty of writing medically unnecessary prescriptions for narcotic painkillers and sedatives for nine patients, including one who died.
Story: Orange County and Santa Clara Prosecutors Target 5 Companies Over Prescription Drugs Update: Orange County Superior Court Judge Robert J. Moss halted a lawsuit brought by the district attorneys of Orange and Santa Clara counties against five of the world's largest narcotics manufacturers, who'd been accused of fraudulently marketing addictive painkillers to undermine the effect of warning labels required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, who made an impassioned plea that the companies pay for the damages of a prescription drug epidemic, says he may appeal. Moss acknowledged the scope of the problem but sided with the drug companies, putting the case on hold indefinitely to allow the FDA to complete a pending inquiry into the safety and efficacy of painkillers. Moss also said he would dismiss the suit as long as the drug makers agreed to allow the counties to revive it, without forfeiting any potential damages, once the FDA completes its work.
Story: "Candy Man" Dr. Julio Gabriel Diaz Withdraws Guilty Plea to Prescribing Drugs in 20 Deaths Update: A federal court jury in Santa Ana on Friday convicted a Santa Barbara doctor known as the "Candy Man" of 79 counts of writing medically unnecessary prescriptions for narcotic painkillers and sedatives for nine patients, including one who died. Julio Gabriel Diaz's actions may have led to the deaths of as many as 20 patients, but Assistant U.S. Attorney Ann Wolf pointed to the death of 27-year-old Adam Montgomery in her opening statement to jurors. Montgomery received 1,140 opiates that were "highly addictive, highly dangerous and highly abused," Wolf said. In January 2014, Diaz pleaded guilty to 10 counts of distributing controlled substances without a legitimate medical purpose and one count of distributing controlled substances to a minor. But in December, U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney allowed Diaz to withdraw his plea, saying he received ineffective representation from his previous lawyer. Carney is expected to sentence Diaz to around 20 years in prison on Dec. 14.
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Update: Dustin James Elwood was sentenced to 45 years to life in prison and Jimmy Ernest Hutton got 30 to life for molesting three brothers ages 7 to 11 in Tustin. Elwood, 24, could have faced up to 225 years to life and 27-year-old Hutton faced up to 60 years to life, according to Senior Deputy District Attorney Heather Brown. Orange County Superior Court Judge John Conley said it was among the worst cases of child molestation he's seen in his four-decade career in law enforcement. "On a scale of one to 10, this is a 10," Conley said. "This is among the worst I've ever seen... It is despicable conduct... You took advantage of a family, which is deeply upsetting... and it occurred again and again and again." But the judge added he did not feel it was right to dole out the maximum punishment. "I can't give the maximum sentence to make the family feel better," Conley said. "As the defense has said the defendants are human beings as well."
Story: Steve Poole, Orange County Fire Authority Firefighter, Wins Appeal in Job Evaluation Case Update: The state Supreme Court this week ruled in favor of the Orange County Fire Authority regarding a dispute about a supervisor's negative comments in a log about a firefighter's work performance. Firefighter Steve Poole sued the OCFA, claiming that a log a captain kept for his own reference should be made available by state law to Poole so he could respond to any negative observations about his job performance. An Orange County Superior Court judge ruled on the agency's behalf, but the ruling was reversed on appeal. The state's high court sided with the OCFA because the comments would not be placed in Poole's employment file for future reference, reports City News Service, adding the high court also noted that the captain did not have the authority to discipline Poole.
Story: Roy Chester Dickson, Last Defendant in $154 Million Insurance Fraud Scam, Pleads Guilty Update: A panel of the California Fourth District Court of Appeal this week upheld the convictions of three defendants in a $154 million insurance fraud scheme out of a Buena Park surgery center. Dee Francis, 65, Andrew Robert Harnen, 61, and disbarred attorney Roy Chester Dickson, 67, had appealed their convictions for tax fraud. Francis and Harnen have already served their time behind bars for the Unity Outpatient Surgery Center scams that ripped off insurance companies for unnecessary surgeries. But Dickson has not served time because he appealed his jury convictions for tax fraud and is awaiting sentencing on his guilty plea to insurance fraud.