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Spurgeon Green seeks to fire attorney as sentencing nears

Suspended Perry physician Spurgeon Green Jr., who was implicated in the death of one his patients, wants to fire his Macon attorney.

O. Hale Almand Jr. of Macon replied back in a letter Green entered into federal court records that he would not mind, except that he wants to ensure Green has legal counsel before his April 21 sentencing date.

U.S. District Court Judge C. Ashley Royal is expected to decide the matter.

Green faces 20 years to life in prison after a federal jury convicted him Nov. 6 of wrongfully prescribing medications that led to the serious bodily injury of a patient who died under his care.

Green was also convicted of 32 counts of post-dating prescriptions and 12 other counts of wrongfully prescribing medications. Federal prosecutors at trial described the Perry physician’s office as a “pill mill.”

Dorothy Mack, Green’s physician’s assistant, and Jack Joseph, who owned and operated a Perry pharmacy near Green, also are awaiting sentencing. Both were tried in federal court in Macon with Green on charges of distributing drugs “not for legitimate medical purpose and outside the usual course of professional practice” from January 2000 to July 2003.

Both were acquitted of any death-related charges. Mack was convicted of giving out multiple prescriptions pre-signed by Green. Joseph was convicted of the general conspiracy charge.

Meanwhile, the doctor’s wife, Dorothy Green, has entered into a pre-trial diversion agreement, which means the general conspiracy charge against her may be dismissed if she successfully completes a probationary period, according to court records.

GREEN FAULTS LAWYER, FILES MOTIONS

Handwritten from the Dooly County jail, Green sought to fire his attorney in a Feb. 1 letter.

“Dear Mr. Almand: Please be advised that due to your incompetence and or/neglect, I find myself at the mercy of the court and for this reason, you are hereby fired as my attorney,” Green wrote.

Green also asked for reimbursement of $55,000 in attorney’s fees.

In his Feb. 7 response, Almand asked Green to reconsider discharging him.

“Not that I personally mind, but the question remains as to who will represent you at sentencing and who will file your appeal,” Almand said in the letter. “If you have another attorney, please let me know so that I can take appropriate steps to protect your interest.”

Almand advised Green to make sure he had someone to take his place, or, if he planned to ask the court to appoint him a new lawyer at the government’s expense, to do so immediately. He also told Green it was questionable whether Royal would appoint a lawyer at the government’s expense because Green likely could not pass the indigence test.

“Spurgeon, I reject your allegations about my competence and the manner in which I conducted trial,” Almand wrote. He added that he warned Green that the government had a strong case against him with substantial risk of conviction.

“At pretrial you failed to accept or understand my warnings about the strength of the government’s case relying instead on your belief that ‘God would save you,’ ’’ Almand wrote.

Almand noted that the cost of Green’s defense, if billed in accordance with his normal billing practice, would far exceed the $120,000 Green paid and that he would be unable to offer a refund. He noted that Green had agreed to pay $200,000 plus expenses. However, Almand said he would still be willing to file Green’s appeal at no additional fee.

Almand also asked Green not to file their correspondence in the court record.

In his Feb. 13 response, which Green included in the court record, Green said that he is guaranteed under the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution the right to effective defense counsel and the right to choose counsel.

Green also noted that while “your offer to continue as my attorney is touching,” he no longer desired Almand’s services.

“Hale, I understand your reluctance to accept the fact that your competence was and is being challenged,” Green wrote. “However, the court record undisputably shows your trial strategy was faulty.”

Green also complained that Almand moved him forward “with a strategy that I did not understand.”

Green wrote about attorney fees and forfeitures before closing his letter, “One last matter that apparently requires attention ... you are fired.”

Almand, contacted by The Telegraph by e-mail while in Kentucky on another case, declined to comment in an e-mail — citing legal and ethical constraints and noting the issue is before Royal.

Green also has filed with the court his own motions, including one for acquittal and a new trial if the acquittal fails. Federal prosecutors have sought direction from the court, continuing to recognize Almand as Green’s attorney.

The jury acquitted Green of wrongfully distributing medications that led to the death of six patients and found him not guilty of wrongfully prescribing medications that led to the serious bodily injury of five other patients who died. The jury was unable to reach a verdict in the seventh death charge.

Green was also acquitted of 25 other counts on wrongfully prescribing medications.

MACK AND JOSEPH AWAIT SENTENCING

The jury found Mack guilty of 32 counts of wrongfully distributing drugs while Green was out of town by giving patients prescriptions that Green had post-dated.

Jurors failed to reach a verdict on the general conspiracy charge, while acquitting her of all death-related charges. Nonetheless, Mack is facing 24 to 30 years in prison based on a “relevant conduct” section of the federal sentencing guideline used by U.S. Probation to calculate the proposed sentence, said Franklin J. Hogue, a Macon attorney representing Mack.

In an interview, Hogue said he is asking the judge to reject using acquitted charges to base sentencing and instead focus only on sentence range guidelines for the charges for which Mack was convicted. The resulting sentencing range would be 6 to 12 months, and Hogue is asking that she be released on probation with credit for the time she’s already served in the Jones County Jail awaiting sentencing.

Hogue said he is asking the judge to be as lenient as possible in light of the jury’s verdict and in light of who Dorothy Mack is as a person.

“I have represented only a small number of defendants in 18 years in whose innocence I firmly believed,” Hogue wrote in a 54-page sentencing memorandum. “Dorothy Mack is one of those people.

“The evidence in the case never removed from my mind the firm belief in her integrity and honesty and innocence of the charges against her,” Hogue wrote. “It is unfortunate, in my view, that a jury concluded that the mere giving of pre-signed prescriptions constituted the elements of the crimes charged in the indictment.”

Hogue described Mack in the memorandum as a kind person, a woman of faith, who is loved by her three children, husband, extended family and friends.

Mack’s sentencing date is April 10.

In addition to acquitting Joseph of all death-related charges, the jury was unable to reach a verdict on whether his pharmacy was used to wrongfully distribute drugs. However, jurors found him guilty of the general conspiracy charge, which carries maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

Charles E. Cox, a Macon attorney representing Mack, declined to comment. Joseph’s sentencing date is April 6.

GREEN’S WIFE MAY HAVE CHARGES DROPPED

Dorothy Green, the wife of Spurgeon Green and the office manager at their Perry clinic, was indicted by a federal grand jury only on the general conspiracy charge and on a charge of operating the medical practice with her husband as a means to illegally distribute drugs. She was to be tried separately.

According to court records, those charges will be dropped against her after she successfully completes the pre-trial diversion program for 12 to 18 months with U.S. Probation. Bernadette Crucilla, a Macon attorney who represented her at Jan. 8 pre-trial conference related to the agreement reached with the prosecution, could not be reached for comment.

U.S. District Attorney Max Wood declined to comment.

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