CLEVELAND, OH – In a 2015 telephone interview Governor Richard Michael DeWine, when he was the state’s attorney general, shockingly revealed to an Ohio law enforcement newsletter how his duty-exceeding pursuit of physicians he accused without evidence of being drug dealers or “pill mill” operators caused people to turn to heroin.
EJBNEWS uncovered DeWine’s sad admission in a February 16, 2015 newsletter published by the Ohio Task Force Commanders Association. The newsletter featured a story headlined, “Ohio state, local officials working to prevent ‘pill mills’.”
The story doesn’t carry a byline, but the writer wrote that a telephone interview was conducted with DeWine. The writer notes that after DeWine took office in 2011, he caused 61 doctors and pharmacists to lose their licenses based on claims they were improperly dispensing prescription drugs. The writer then quotes DeWine.
“We certainly don’t want to deny these pain medications to anybody who really needs them, but they can be very addicting. Many times, these people who were addicted to pain medication would switch to heroin because heroin is cheaper. Babies are born to addicted mothers.”
DeWine’s admission that his political grandstanding may have triggered the state’s heroin epidemic is exactly what former pain management physician James Lundeen has claimed as one of the medical practitioners who lost his license to practice medicine. He’s ripped DeWine in his appeals to the state’s courts for targeting Ohio physicians for investigations without probable cause; and for conducting raids of physician’s offices for incriminating evidence that didn’t lead to prosecutions. Lundeen has never been charged for any violations of law.
Lundeen said DeWine’s raids drove legitimate physicians who were treating Ohioans for pain out of the state; and made others too afraid to treat suffering patients.
DeWine made a big deal about Lundeen being a drug dealer when he brought agents from 10 agencies to Portsmouth to raid his 12 clinics on March 15 and 16 of 2011. Lundeen in an appeal said DeWine secured search warrants based upon unspecified false statements made by unidentified individuals. DeWine, he claimed, then had his agents remove items that were beyond the scope of the warrants.
DeWine as an attorney general is not authorized under Ohio law to conduct criminal prosecutions on behalf of the state unless he’s received a written request from the governor to do so against a person who has been indicted. He can “appear for the state in the trial and argument of all civil and criminal causes in the supreme court in which the state is directly or indirectly interested.” The attorney general’s duties are found in 109.02 of Ohio’s revised code.
DeWine was clear in his statement to the newsletter’s writer, and to reporters throughout Ohio, that he was investigating doctors who he had no doubt were “drug dealers.
“We still have a number of cases under investigation. What we found is there were doctors who were really just drug dealers. Sometimes it was cash, sometimes it was Medicaid. Many times, taxpayers were paying for these overdoses.”
DeWine in his capacity as Ohio’s attorney general would engage in a federal “misprision of felony” violation of Chapter 18 and section 4 of the United States Code if he knew Lundeen was a drug dealer and didn’t cause him to be prosecuted. The statute reads that, “Whoever, having knowledge of the actual commission of a felony cognizable by a court of the United States, conceals and does not as soon as possible make known the same to some judge or other person in civil or military authority under the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.”
The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, Carter Stewart, reviewed DeWine’s referrals and chose to prosecute two of the 61 physicians and pharmacists whose offices he obtained search warrants to raid: Christopher Stegawski of Cleveland and John Randy Callihan of Portsmouth. The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio didn’t prosecute any. Local prosecutors didn’t pick up on the evidence DeWine gathered from his constitutionally-questionable raids.
Governor John Kasich didn’t ask DeWine to investigate or prosecute the un-indicted six-dozen physicians and pharmacists he had defamed as “drug dealers” without evidence even his constitutional rights-violating and search warrant-driven raids failed to uncover.
In Lundeen’s case, and that of the other physicians, DeWine’s unsuccessful attempts to get federal and county prosecutors to completely back his publicity-fueled raids caused him to pressure the state medical board’s members and administrative staff by flooding them with his already rejected “evidence.”
The accuser in Lundeen’s case was “DeWine” and not any of his patients. It was DeWine’s attorneys representing the state’s medical board against the physicians their boss was accusing.
DeWine “found” two patients to testify that Lundeen had dispensed narcotics to them without an examination and that they’d become addicted; but neither patient had filed or thought to file a complaint against the physician. Based on DeWine’s rigged proceedings the medical board concluded that over a 34-year period Lundeen violated standard care for 26 patients based off the testimony of just DeWine’s “found” two. Lundeen admits his mistake was relying on an attorney who told him not to attend the hearing.
Lundeen had a witness whose story DeWine’s employees encouraged the medical board to disregard, Carolyn Shelton.
With DeWine terrorizing Ohio physicians out of the state, Lundeen patients like Shelton could not find one in her area willing to treat her. She finally found a physician in Columbus whose treatment resulted in her being addicted to morphine. Shelton’s testimony was that Lundeen had her pain in remission and that he was carefully monitoring her to “avoid” addiction.
Lundeen and other physicians treated patients like Shelton with oxycodone But after DeWine’s attack on the state’s pain management physicians heroin and fentanyl use started dramatically increasing.
Lundeen’s appeals reveal administrative proceedings so irregular there was no way any of the physicians would win with the deck DeWine stacked against them. The former physician was so financially-destroyed after DeWine’s attacks he didn’t have money for legal fees to protect his rights and has been representing himself.
DeWine’s opponent in the campaign for Ohio governor, Richard Cordray, served as attorney general before him when there were fewer than 80 fentanyl overdosing deaths a year during his term between 2007 and 2010.
Cordray has thrown heavy shots at DeWine’s handling of the state’s heroin and fentanyl overdosing crisis that’s killing nearly 5000 Ohioans a year. He recently tweeted an equation of DeWine’s newfound fentanyl advice as coming from the captain of the Titanic.
Tracking the timeline of DeWine’s attacks on pain management clinics that began in 2011 and it’s evident that some act triggered the jump in heroin and fentanyl deaths from under in 2010 (Cordray’s last year in office) to 84 in 2013 to 504 in 2014.
Overdose deaths from fentanyl grew to 1155 in 2015 to 2357 in 2016 as its use went from legal to the streets. Overdose deaths overall in Ohio topped 4854 last year for a total of 20,000 since DeWine’s attack on the state’s pain management physicians began in 2011.
When this year’s totals are added the number of dead will be over 25,000.