By Scott Smith Kokomo Tribune
---- — Dr. Don Wagoner likely will go to trial in June on charges he presided over a prescription drug distribution ring in Howard County.
Wagoner, 78, faces 20 felony counts in a case involving eight co-defendants, all connected with medical clinics Wagoner ran in Kokomo and Burlington.
Howard County Prosecutor Mark McCann filed a total of 95 felony charges against the nine defendants last April, following an investigation by the Kokomo Police Department, the Howard County Drug Task Force, the DEA, FBI and the Indiana office of the Attorney General, Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.
Don Wagoner is expected to be the first to go on trial, McCann said Tuesday, with jury selection set to begin June 13 in Howard Superior Court 1.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys expect the trial will last four weeks.
“It’s just the nature of the case, and all of the documents, and the number of witnesses to be called,” McCann said of the length of the trial.
McCann said the decision to try Don Wagoner first was made in consultation with the defense and Judge William Menges.
Wagoner’s counsel, Indianapolis attorney James Voyles, has submitted three pre-trial motions, two of which are aimed at limiting the prosecution’s ability to discuss certain aspects of the case.
The third pertains to a jury selection questionnaire.
In addition to usual jury selection questions, the defense wants potential jurors to be asked if they themselves have been a patient at one of the Wagoner clinics, or if they know anyone who has.
The defense also wants potential jurors quizzed as to whether they’ve personally ever been addicted to pain medication or if they’ve lost any family or friends to addiction.
Menges hasn’t yet ruled on those motions, or on an earlier motion to throw out several of the charges against Don Wagoner.
Three doctors, including Wagoner’s wife, Dr. Marilyn Wagoner, were arrested in the case and charged with dealing controlled substances. Police and prosecutors say the doctors routinely prescribed heavy doses of opiates and other narcotic prescription medications to patients without any medical need, resulting in more than 20 overdose deaths.
Kokomo police, aided by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, raided the two Wagoner medical clinics in March 2013, seizing records. The arrests came about a month later.
The Wagoners and doctors William Terpstra and Robert Brewer (who was not arrested, but was instead issued a court summons) have all given up their licenses to prescribe medicine while the trial is pending, after the attorney general’s office brought licensure actions.
Physician assistant John Thomas was charged and issued a summons, but not arrested, while physician assistants Gary Hartman and Thomas Hewitt, nurse Linda Richards and office manager Michelle Wagoner were all arrested. Charges are still pending against all nine defendants.
Scott Smith is on Twitter, @JasonSSmith1, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org