Monday, August 23, 2010

Arkansas Bombing Case & Verdict—For Now

by Andrea Campbell 

It is unusual that an individual is involved in a bombing, especially in Arkansas. A case that has captured the attention of crime followers nationally, this one has some strange elements to it.

It Begins
This story starts with an investigation, but one with another objective — sanctioning doctors. The Arkansas State Medical Board was looking into the conduct of a licensed physician in northern Arkansas named Dr. Randeep Mann. Mann, it was purported, had over-prescribed medications that resulted in the deaths of 10 of his patients.

The Board
The state medical board is made up of 14 members. This post is a governor-appointed position, and 11 of the members are doctors. This group oversees Arkansas’s 5,763 active licensed physicians.

The Agreement
In 2001, the medical board received some complaints about how Mann prescribed medication. Mann, nearing his fifties, specialized in internal medicine at Skyline Medical Clinic in Russellville, and several of his patients overdosed. There was also an alleged claim of sex for drugs by one of the overdose victims, plus several other female patients felt threatened. These and other infractions comprised a 22-page report. When two more patients died, the board issued an Emergency Order of Suspension and Notice of Hearing in July 2003.

The Sanction
Mann was never stripped of his medical license, but his prescription-writing privileges were revoked. He had prescribed methadone for the treatment of addiction despite not having the proper credentials, and he had violated other regulations in regards to amphetamines and methamphetamines. Originally the board was going to annul his license for five years. Instead, the board decided that if he surrendered his federal DEA permit to prescribe controlled substances for at least a year, got education on how to prescribe them, and paid a $9,500 fine for investigative expenses, that would be his punishment.

Soon after, the board agreed to reinstate him within a year, in July 2004, and many people thought that was unconscionable. Phillip Milligan, a Fort Smith attorney who represents survivors in one of two malpractice lawsuits against Mann, says, “If the medical board would have pulled his license the first time, instead of making a deal with him, that would have saved some lives.”

More Allegations
Just a couple months after Mann’s license was restored to an “unlimited and unencumbered” status, more patients started overdosing. Kevin Allen Curry, 43, went to Mann in 2005 for facial pain, and it is surmised he wound up dying from mixed drug intoxication. According to another report, Dr. George Richison told investigators that he treated several of Mann’s patients for overdoses when they arrived in the emergency room at St. Mary’s Regional in Russellville.

The medical board finally issued an emergency order suspending Mann’s license, and by April 2006, eight deaths were blamed on Mann’s negligence. His surrendered his certificate to prescribe, but his medical license was still intact.

The Story Continues
The loss of his drug-prescribing privileges caused Dr. Randeep Mann to go off the deep end. Naturally he lost patients who required pain management. He mounted a letter writing campaign explaining the difficulties this caused him and his practice. He had run into financial difficulties and wondered whether the board could help him find a job with a physician group. He claimed the military disqualified him from any jobs there, and the letters expressed desperation. He wrote: "This has not only involved my professional life, but my personal life as well. To be working less than a full schedule has been the hardest feat for me to endure since my graduation from medical school in December of 1980."

Board Denial
Then: a bomb set to kill the chairman of the Arkansas State Medical Board, Dr. Trent Pierce, went off as he was getting into his Lexus (below left) at his West Memphis home on the morning of February 4, 2009. Pierce survived, but with serious injury. Pierce had approached his car and went to move a spare tire that was leaning up against it. Moving the tire triggered an explosion that caused facial injuries and blindness in one eye. Reports are that Pierce's face is still dotted with shards of black rubber that were driven into his skin by the explosion.

Police interviewed Mann within hours. Then, in March, police officers searched Mann’s home and found a large collection of weapons including grenade launchers and 98 grenades buried in his yard, and inside, in gun safes, 110 semi- and fully automatic firearms -- of which just two were unregistered. Mann, a federal firearms dealer, was arrested and charged with unregistered firearms, illegal possession of the grenades and a machine gun, and other crimes, but the main charge was using a weapon of mass destruction against Pierce.

Mann was recently convicted by a federal jury of the bomb attack against Pierce. Prosecutors painted a picture of a man who was embittered by the board's continual sanctions. But the forensic evidence was slight.

The crime scene materials were tested. There was a spare tire, a hand grenade, duct tape—and the grenade, duct-taped to the tire was rigged to blow when some string pulled the pin. But nothing matched items in Mann’s home, and the three fingerprints found belonged to an FBI agent.

Prosecutors did present an email that Mann had sent to his brother in India. The word “Pierce” was in the subject line, the body of the message contained a photo of Pierce, and the note said, “I hope this picture is good.” Mann also had a friend and business partner who owned a Nissan Altima that was missing its spare tire — the same type of tire as was found with the bomb itself. That, witness testimony about Mann’s anger, and the military-grade weapons finally convinced jurors.

Oddly enough, Mann was found guilty of orchestrating the bombing, but the investigation as to who set the bomb continues. Mann could be sentenced to life in prison. His attorneys are filing an appeal.

No comments: