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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Supreme Court Declines to Hear Conrad Black's Appeal of His Two Remaining Convictions

The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday denied the petition for certiorari by former international media mogul, Canadian citizen and British Lord, Conrad Moffat Black, as reported in the Washington Post.

Mr. Black was the CEO of Hollinger International, Inc., which owned newspapers worldwide. He was indicted (in an indictment made available by FindLaw which may be viewed here) with other officers and employees of Hollinger in the Northern District of Illinois in November of 2005 on 11 counts, in an original indictment which charged mail fraud conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy and substantive counts of mail and wire fraud. The counts all referenced the "honest services" fraud statute, 18 United States Code section 1346. Testifying to the vigorousness of his defense, on July of 2007, a jury acquitted Mr. Black on 9 counts but convicted him on three others.

Mr. Black then challenged his convictions on appeal. In June of last year, the Supreme Court handed down its three "honest services" decisions, Skilling v. U.S., Black v. U.S., and Weyrauch v. U.S. In Skilling, the main decision involving former Enron President Jeffrey Skilling, the Court rejected the old "intangible right" to an employee's honest services theory and held that, in order to avoid being unconstitutionally vague, section 1346 applies to bribery or kickback schemes, and not to mere self-dealing by an employee. In Mr. Black's case, the Court unanimously held that the jury had not been properly instructed on honest services fraud at trial, and vacated his convictions and remanded. Then in October of last year, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, in an opinion authored by distinguished Judge Richard Posner, struck two of the three remaining counts against Mr. Black, leaving him convicted on a single fraud count and a count for obstruction of justice. Mr. Black again appealed these two remaining convictions to the Seventh Circuit, which upheld them last December, and then to the Supreme Court, which has now declined to review them. Mr. Black is scheduled to be resentenced on June 24.

Source: McLean's.ca