A federal judge in Miami has rejected a local doctor’s bid to collect $600,000 in legal defense fees from the U.S. attorney’s office after prosecutors failed to win a conviction amid their alleged misconduct at the physician’s trial.
U.S. District Judge Jose Martinez issued his ruling Thursday, closing the chapter on Dr. Ali Shaygan’s final bid to be reimbursed for his attorneys’ fees after his acquittal on charges of illegally prescribing painkillers and causing the death of a patient. The Shaygan case — and the fallout — sullied the U.S. attorney’s office in Miami.
His decision comes after the U.S. Supreme Court in November chose not to review a federal appeals court’s ruling to throw out sanctions and the $600,000 award against the U.S. attorney’s office, which had resulted from a witness-tampering investigation that came to light during the 2009 trial. Members of Shaygan’s defense team, including attorney David O. Markus, learned at trial that they had been secretly recorded by government witnesses.
But the high court refused to hear an appeal from Shaygan, who was acquitted of 141 counts.
The Miami federal judge who presided over his trial, Alan Gold, said publicly that three prosecutors and a Drug Enforcement Administration agent acted “vexatiously and in bad faith” for failing to obtain permission before authorizing two witnesses to record conversations with Shaygan’s attorney and his investigator. In addition to the public reprimand, Gold ordered the U.S. attorney’s office to pay Shaygan’s legal fees.
But the federal appeals court in Atlanta threw out Gold’s sanctions against Miami prosecutors Sean Cronin and Andrea Hoffman. Their supervisor, Karen Gilbert, did not appeal Gold’s sanctions. The appeals court also tossed out the judge’s award of attorneys’ fees to Shaygan.
The court found that the trial judge violated the prosecutors’ due process rights when he issued the public reprimand for their alleged misconduct.
Despite the final outcome on his client’s legal fees, Shaygan’s lawyer praised the trial judge.
“Judges should stand up to abuse and misconduct as Judge Gold did,” Markus said. “He is a champion of the criminal justice system and the rule of law.”