Observations on the Schneider Trial

A jury found Dr. Stephen Schneider and his wife guilty in 2010 of multiple counts relating to their operation of the Schneider Medical Clinic in Haysville Kansas. Patterson Legal Group’s summer law clerks sat in for portions of the trial as two very different images of the Schneiders were presented and wrote their observations as follows.

The prosecution presented a powerful story of a doctor and his wife who became obsessed with making money through billing fraud and writing as many prescriptions as possible, regardless of the abuse, devastation, and death these practices caused. The defense then told a very different, heartbreaking story of a doctor fighting for the poor and disadvantaged suffering from pain. The defense said maybe he trusted some of his patients more than he should have, but at all times he was only trying to help people in pain, many of whom could not get treatment at other clinics.

The trial included seven long weeks of testimony. The lawyers and parties both looked exhausted by the time the case went to the jury. We saw everything you would expect from a high profile criminal trial. There were some dramatic moments and some very dull ones. The attorneys on both sides made some compelling arguments, and they made some not-so-compelling arguments. There were occasionally tears and raised voices. The judge even had to scold an attorney or onlooker from time to time. The jury then needed seven days to deliberate and they should be applauded for taking their responsibility so seriously.

Ultimately, the jury found Schneider guilty of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, unlawful distribution of controlled substances resulting in the death of a patient, unlawfully distributing controlled substances, health care fraud resulting in a death, submitting false claims to Medicaid and private insurers, and money laundering. His wife, Linda, was also found guilty of conspiracy, health care fraud, money laundering, and aiding and abetting Dr. Schneider’s offenses.

Among the drugs Dr. Schneider was prescribing was Actiq, a brand name form of fentanyl. Actiq is manufactured by Cephalon and is only FDA approved for use in terminal cancer patients with sharp flares of pain. Actiq is far more powerful than morphine, but comes in a lollipop form, and Dr. Schneider was prescribing it for migraine headaches and other pain. One patient died four days after Dr. Schneider gave her a prescription for 120 of the lollipops for her migraines. With the prevalence of prescription drug abuse, perhaps manufacturing a powerful and dangerous narcotic to look like a candy sucker is not the most responsible idea.

The Schneiders will certainly appeal, and their lawyers have stated they believe their clients are completely innocent. Sentencing has not taken place yet, but the Schneiders face twenty years to life in prison. There is no parole in the federal system, but individuals can earn up to 15% time off of the their sentence for good behavior. For the Schneiders, unless they have a successful appeal, each will serve a minimum of seventeen years in prison.

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