Pubdate: Sat, 05 Apr 2008
Source: Topeka Capital-Journal (KS)
Copyright: 2008 The Topeka Capital-Journal
Cited: Pain Relief Network
Bookmark: (Chronic Pain)


WICHITA -- Federal prosecutors asked a federal judge Friday to issue
a gag order to silence a Haysville physician and his wife indicted for
operating a "pill mill" linked to at least 56 overdose deaths.

In court papers, the U.S. attorney's office asked for a restraining
order to keep physician Stephen Schneider and his wife, Linda, from
talking to the media. Prosecutors also asked that the judge extend
that order to include the Schneiders' family members and Siobhan
Reynolds, president of the Pain Relief Network, a patient advocacy

Lawrence Williamson, the doctor's defense attorney, said he opposes
the government motion.

"We strongly oppose a gag order because we believe in the public's
access to the justice system," Williamson said. "We think the request
is overbroad and not supported by law at all."

The government also asked the court to order Williamson to give
prosecutors a recorded statement the doctor made at the jail that was
subsequently turned over to The Associated Press.

Williamson said he didn't have a copy of that recording.

As an alternate to a gag order, the government sought a transfer of
the trial, now scheduled for April 2009, to eliminate the possibility
of the jury pool being prejudiced by publicity the case is getting in
the Wichita media.

Government prosecutors announced in December that they had indicted
the Schneiders, alleging that the doctor and his wife directly caused
four deaths and contributed to the deaths of 11 other patients. In
all, the indictment links the clinic to the accidental overdose deaths
of 56 patients.

The Haysville physician and his wife were arrested on a 34-count
indictment alleging conspiracy, unlawful distribution of a controlled
substance resulting in death, health care fraud, illegal money
transactions and money laundering.

Federal prosecutors asked the judge to admonish defense attorneys
about professional rules of conduct regarding public statements.

Williamson said he was not trying to influence the jury

"We are often contacted by media to respond to allegations that are
made by the government and if the public has questions to the
allegations we should be able to respond to those within the rule,"
Williamson said.

Hatcher said the government's motion threatened freedom of

"They are trying to quiet down anything we would have to say in their
defense so that people are only hearing one side of the story a=80"
basically the prosecutor's side," she said.

The government is also seeking to keep Reynolds and Hatcher from
contacting victims and witnesses in the case. Prosecutors claimed
Reynolds had told a patient that if he or she was going to commit
suicide because painkillers were no longer available, to do so publicly.

Reynolds called that claim "absolutely false."

"This is just a wild allegation," Reynolds said. "Basically it was put
out there to try to smear me. Pain Relief Network works very hard to
try to stop the suicides going on across the country because of
untreated pain, the epidemic of untreated pain."

She said prosecutors should not be attacking constitutional rights:
"I'm shocked that the government would try to get a gag order against
a political activist. I find that stunning."
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