Written by Joe Scotchie Friday, 05 March 2010 00:00
On Thursday, Feb. 25, a Nassau County Court Judge dismissed a motion to grant Judicial Diversion to Dr. Sanji Francis, the Merrick physician accused of selling prescription drugs to undercover agents.
At the same time, a trial on the case has been adjourned until April.
“[It] has been adjourned into April so that the attorney and I can determine if we will ever agree on a punishment,” said Theresa Corrigan, a district attorney, in an email to members of Drug Free Massapequa (DMF). “It is highly unlikely, so I’m sure I will be indicting the case relatively soon.”
On Feb. 25, the defendant unsuccessfully sought the diversion on the grounds that he was suffering from an addition himself.
Massapequa residents braved miserable conditions to travel to Mineola on that date and attend the Judicial Diversion hearing. Before the hearing, Drug Free Massapequa spearheaded a petition drive, supporting the position of Ms. Corrigan, in her attempt to deny the defendant Judicial Diversion. By the time of the hearing, over 2,000 signatures had been attached to the petition.
At the hearing, Ms. Corrigan listed her case. She claimed that the defendant did not have an abuse or dependency problem but instead was “led by greed, not addiction.” Ms. Corrigan further noted that the sales of prescription drugs were captured on audio and video tapes and that the defendant was “well known among the drug population.”
“Intelligence exists that past students, once they were out of Massapequa High School, received narcotics from the defendant,” Ms. Corrigan further stated.
An attorney for the defendant, Dennis Lemke, stated his own case. Lemke said that tapes made of his client had been made available to him. He added that Judicial Diversion would only allow for an evaluation of his client to be conducted and that any addiction process needed experts to gather pertinent information. The attorney said that his client had surrendered both his license to practice medicine and his license to write prescription drugs.
The Hon. Stephen Jaeger, the Nassau County Court Judge who has been overseeing the case, dismissed the motion. He noted the large number of petitions that had been delivered to his office. However, he added that public sentiment should not be a factor in determining a case of Judicial Diversion.
The judge also reviewed findings by the court’s treatment staff on the condition of the defendant. He noted that the defendant did not test positive for opiate usage, nor in the court’s opinion, was there any evidence of substance abuse or addiction on the part of the defendant. Judge Jaeger added that the court’s finding was part of any alleged drug use would not lead to criminal behavior. The court, Judge Jaeger said, did not agree that the defendant is a public safety risk. Still, Judicial Diversion was denied and the proceedings were free to advance to the next level.
Prior to the hearing, DFM co-founders Janice Talento and Vicky Honohan stated their case against the defendant.
“Francis was a local doctor who benefited financially from the sale of illegal prescription drugs for years without concern for the law or the addictive nature and side effects of the drugs he prescribed,” they wrote in an email to DMF members. “Francis’ unethical and illegal actions are a major contributing factor for the rise of opiate and heroin abuse and addiction in our local communities and it is our sincere belief that he should be denied judicial diversion and be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Thousands of concerned parents are watching this case closely and we need to take a strong stand against people like Dr. Francis and drug peddlers like him. The safety and future of our children are at considerable risk.”
Needless to say, those same members were pleased with the denial of Judicial Diversion.
“DFM members and the community came out of the court room with a renewed sense of purpose and in a congratulatory mood due to the verdict and the successful efforts of Ms. Corrigan,” said Ms. Talento. “She thanked everyone for their help and support in this effort. While a trial is still possible if an agreement cannot be made between the two attorneys, DFM and the community continue to closely monitor this case and stand ready to help in the battle against drug abuse and the prosecution of drug dealers.
“A community that stands together can make a difference in the fight against drugs; Drug Free Massapequa will continue to unite the community as we raise awareness and demand a drug-free zone to raise our children,” Ms. Talento continued. “Life’s battles don’t always go to the stronger or faster man; but soon or later the man who wins the battle is the man who thinks he can. Drug Free Massapequa knows it can.”