Yesterday it was reported that 61 year-old doctor Lawrence Wean, of Media, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia, was sentenced to prison for 10 to 20 years, and that he had earlier rejected a plea agreement that would have required less prison time. Experienced lawyers will know that rejecting a plea agreement and proceeding to trial is something of a gamble, and if you lose that gamble, you can expect to serve more time than what might otherwise been ordered after a plea, so a longer sentence for doctor Lawrence Wean comes as no surprise.
I have no personal knowledge of Dr. Lawrence Wean, or of his case, having only read about Dr. Wean’s case in the media. As I understand it from news reports, Dr. Wean sold prescription drugs to undercover officers, was convicted in October of writing unlawful prescriptions and filing false insurance claims, has been ordered to pay over $40,000 in fines and $62,000 in restitution, and was just sentenced to 10 to 20 years.
Too much exposure for physicians?
One of the things I have learned as an appellate lawyer defending physicians on appeal is that the additional time imposed at sentencing, after losing at trial, is disproportionately more time than anyone expected when measured against earlier plea offers or negotiations. In other words, the gamble for physicians facing drug diversion charges for prescription drug crimes, may be a larger gamble than the typical defendant might face when rejecting a plea agreement. Physicians, family members, and lawyers defending physicians for the first time, are genuinely surprised, something I have witnessed first hand.
Is there a better approach for some physicians?
One of the opportunities I would like to explore when the right case presents itself, is the idea of negotiating a very early and favorable plea agreement, followed by an quick sentencing and an early self-report to serve time, before the typical two-or-more years have passed, and extensive financial resources have been depleted, which is common when taking drug diversion charges to trial. Some might recall that this type of efficient resolution was Martha Stewart’s solution to her legal woes a few years back. She quickly negotiated a plea agreement, was sentenced, surrendered, served her time, and then got on with her life.
A unique physician will be necessary
This approach will require the right type of individual, and I have no way of knowing whether doctor Lawrence Wean was such an individual. Most physicians, it seems, are willing to postpone the start of trial as often as will be permitted, and they appear further willing to spend all that they have to avoid serving time. These tendencies appear to be true even after conviction, if the case is on appeal (although “bond” is seldom allowed on appeal, I have helped physicians remain free pending appeal). Nonetheless, for the right physician, I find the idea of a quick resolution and sentence intriguing. In the right case, a physician could enter a plea and serve his or her time in three years, at little financial cost, relatively speaking. In sharp contrast, however, at the end of three years, all many physicians will have to show for their efforts is one of more convictions and financial ruin, with a sentencing hearing, a prison term, and an uncertain appeal, on the horizon.