The jury in the criminal trial of former physician Dipak Desai and nurse anesthetist Ronald Lakeman has returned its verdict, finding Desai guilty on ALL 27 counts against him including 2nd degree murder.
Lakeman was aquitted on 11 counts, including the murder charge, but was found guilty of 16 charges including insurance fraud, criminal neglect, reckless disregard, obtaining money under false pretenses and theft.
Prosecutors claimed that Desai and Lakeman recklessly and negligently put patients at risk with the reuse of syringes and single dose vials of the anesthetic propofol during procedures at Desai’s endoscopy clinic where speed and volume was emphasized over patient safety. Health investigators testified that they believed vials became contaminated with hepatitis C virus from two different “source” patients on two dates in 2007, and that the tainted anesthetic was injected into subsequent patients.
In addition to the murder charge, Desai was found guilty of seven counts of criminal neglect of patients resulting in substantial bodily harm, seven counts of reckless disregard of persons resulting in substantial bodily harm, nine counts of insurance fraud, two counts of obtaining money under false pretenses and one felony theft charge.
“I’m elated that he didn’t get convicted on the murder charge,” Lakeman’s lawyer, Frederick Santacroce, said outside court. “I’m disappointed that he was convicted of the other charges.”
Another former Desai clinic nurse anesthetist, Keith Mathahs, 77, pleaded guilty in December to five felonies, including criminal neglect of patients resulting in death, insurance fraud and racketeering. He testified against Desai and Lakeman and could get probation or up to six years in state prison when he is sentenced.
The state criminal case is separate from a federal case pending against Desai and his former clinic business manager, Tonya Rushing, in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas. Desai and Rushing have pleaded not guilty to conspiracy and health care fraud charges alleging they schemed to inflate anesthesia times and over-bill health insurance companies. That trial is scheduled to begin on August 20th and was delayed because of this trial.
The 2007 hepatitis C outbreak also spawned cores of civil lawsuits, including several that have already seen jury findings holding drug manufacturers and the state’s largest health management organization liable for hundreds of millions of dollars in damages to plaintiffs. Dozens of lawsuits remain pending.
The jury of seven women and five men deliberated Friday and most of the day Monday before reaching their verdict. Desai, 63, and Lakeman, 66, face up to life in prison for these multiple felony convictions. Attorneys for both defendants say they will appeal.