SCOTUS Denies Prosecutorial Misconduct Appeal

By Robyn Hagan Cain on November 16, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

It's rare for a judge to get so mad that he fines the government after a trial, but U.S. District Judge Alan Gold was so outraged by two prosecutors' win-at-any-cost tactics that he awarded over $600,000 in attorney's fees and costs to a defendant acquitted of 141 counts of unlawful prescribing.

In 2011, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals later reversed the sanctions. This week, the government can breathe a sigh of relief: The Supreme Court has declined to consider the case, The Associated Press reports.

Let's go back to the beginning and discuss this kerfuffle.

The Drug Enforcement Administration started an undercover investigation of Dr. Ali Shaygan after one of his patients died from a lethal combination of prescription and illegal drugs. Shaygan was later indicted for distributing and dispensing controlled substances outside the scope of professional practice.

During the trial, the defense team learned that one of the three lawyers representing Shaygan had been secretly recorded by witnesses with approval from the government. (This was supposedly related to a witness tampering investigation.) The conversations violated legal ethics rules and U.S. Attorney's Office policy because they were not disclosed to the defense prior to trial, the ABA Journal reports.

After the jury acquitted Shaygan, Judge Gold slapped the government with sanctions for the way it mishandled the case.

The feds appealed the $601,795.88 award in attorney's fees and costs, and two attorneys -- Sean Cronin and Andrea Hoffman -- appealed public reprimands based on their work as Assistant United States Attorneys in the matter.

In 2011, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals found that Judge Gold abused his discretion by sanctioning the feds for an "objectively reasonable," albeit unsuccessful, prosecution, the ABA Journal reports. The Supreme Court rejected Dr. Shaygan's petition to review the sanction reversal this week.

Is this just a run-of-the-mill denial, or does the Court's unwillingness to consider this case an implicit endorsement of the prosecutors' tactics?

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