Faulty indictment prompts judge to acquit Craig doctor found guilty of killing patient
May 4, 2016
The Craig man who faced 20 years to life in prison for unlawfully prescribing controlled substances resulting in the death of one of his patients has been acquitted of the most severe charge brought against him due to a missing word.
Joel Miller, who practiced in Craig from 2008 to 2010 at High Country Medical, was indicted on 34 charges in August 2013, including health care fraud, money laundering and prescribing drugs without a legitimate medical purpose, state court documents.
In November 2015, a federal jury convicted Miller of six counts of unlawful distribution of a controlled substance without a legitimate medical purpose, one count of unlawful distribution of a controlled substance without a legitimate medical purpose resulting in death and one count of giving false information to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Miller would have been the first Colorado doctor to receive a sentence for causing the death of a patient, but a federal judge approved a defense motion for acquittal on that charge. The other five convictions remain intact.
As reported by FOX31 Denver, Federal Judge Robert Blackburn granted the motion for acquittal because the word fentanyl was absent in the charging document.
"Count 24 alleges and identifies only hydrocodone, alprazolam and clonazepam as the substances which resulted in the death of (Shelly Volkmar). However, at trial, the evidence eliminated hydrocodone, alprazolam, and clonezpam as controlled substances that resulted in death … Therefore judgment of acquittal must be granted," Blackburn wrote in his order.
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The initial convictions carried a sentencing range of 20 years to life imprisonment, but now, the state can only seek a maximum sentence of 10 years.
Several officers from Craig Police Department provided testimony during the trial.
Craig Police Department Chief Walt Vanatta said the acquittal speaks volumes about the courts.
"It's another example of why we don't have a criminal justice system — we have a system," he said. "It has nothing to do with justice. The mere fact that a word was left out of a charging document, to me, has nothing to do with serving justice. It has to do with the technicalities of the system."
Craig Police, Moffat County Sheriff's Office, Routt County Sheriff's Office, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Colorado, the Internal Revenue Service, Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General and the Colorado Attorney General's Office, were involved in the investigation and trial.
Contact Patrick Kelly at 970-875-1795 or Contact Patrick Kelly at 970-875-1795 or pkelly@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @M_PKelly.Contact Patrick Kelly at 970-875-1795 or pkelly@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @M_PKelly.