Los Angeles Doctor Acquitted on Charges of Conspiracy and Falsification of Records Relating to 2003 Liver Transplant

According to the Los Angeles Times, Dr. Richard R. Lopez, Jr., head of the liver transplant program at St. Vincent Medical Center in Los Angeles, was acquitted by a jury in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on Friday, on charges conspiracy, concealment of material fact and falsification of records. The charges related to a liver transplant in 2003. Dr. Lopez acknowledged that he was involved in a decision to give a liver intended for a patient to another patient more than 50 places down the transplant waiting list, which constituted a violation of transplant rules. The government charged Dr. Lopez with orchestrating a cover up of the violation. The liver was intended for a patient residing in Saudi Arabia, and was given to another patient residing in Saudi Arabia. Under the transplant rules, the organ should have been given to the next person on the list--a patient at the University of California, Los Angeles, Medical Center.

Image source: www.ehow.com/about_5673429_private-grants-liver_transplant-patients.html

St. Vincent initially reported the actual recipient of the liver to the United Network for Organ Sharing, a private, non-group contracted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services which oversees transplantation nationwide. Later the same day, the hospital's staff retracted the notification and incorrectly reported that the liver had gone to the individual which it had been offered to. The government alleged that St. Vincent continued to file false documents concerning the liver. The defense argued that Dr. Lopez had no knowledge of the falsification of the documents, and that Dr. Lopez was being made “a scapegoat for everything that was wrong at St. Vincent’s.”

St. Vincent has subsequently shut down its liver transplant program.


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LAPD Officer Acquitted on Weapons Export Charges

It is a rather slow news day, so the Blog would like to take the opportunity to note that, earlier this month, a jury in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California acquitted Los Angeles Police Department Officer Johnny Augustus Baltazar on charges of illegally exporting weapons and ammunition to the Central American nation of Belize, as reported in the L.A. Times. Baltazar was alleged to have purchased eight .40-caliber handguns, two 9-millimeter handguns and more than 1,500 rounds of ammunition from the LAPD police academy store for his Belize business, Elite Security. The guns and ammunition were shipped inside a safe, however the shipment was stopped by Belize officials who determined that the shipment was allegedly not in compliance with regulations banning the export of handguns larger than 9 mm. The officials sent the shipment back, and Baltazar planned to substitute smaller caliber guns for the larger caliber ones, however Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency discovered them and started an investigation.

Baltazar's counsel emphasized the confusing nature of export regulations to the jury at trial. He cited errors by the shipping company. He also argued that Baltazar was a law-abiding person merely looking to build a business in Belize for his retirement. A juror questioned following the verdict stated that he believed that Baltazar was merely following the advice of the shipping company. Baltazar remains an LAPD officer, however he has been on leave since the LAPD was notified of the investigation.