‘Pill Mill’ Doctor Renews Attempt to Withdraw Guilty Plea to Prescribing Drug Charges

WILLIAMSPORT — The Northumberland County doctor dubbed the “pill mill” doctor has renewed his motion to have his guilty plea withdrawn citing ineffective counsel.

Dr. Raymond J. Kraynak was left without an expert witness at trial due to the failings of his two public defenders, his new court-appointed attorney, Stephanie L. Cesare, claimed in a filing in district court Tuesday. United States intermediary.

Kraynak, after the prosecution rested in the third week of his trial, pleaded guilty last September to 12 counts of prescribing controlled substances outside the course of professional practice.

In February, Kraynak, 64, filed a pro-se motion to withdraw his plea.

In March, Judge Matthew W. Brann continued sentencing, allowed deputy public defenders Thomas Thornton and Gerald A. Lord to step down, but ordered Kraynak detained as a flight risk because he would likely spend the rest of his life in prison.

Brann had accepted a plea deal and said he would serve the agreed-upon 15-year sentence.

Cesare argues that the defense attorney’s ineffectiveness led Brann to bar expert testimony that might contradict the statements of Dr. Stephen Thomas, a key government witness.

Testimony from the noted Pittsburgh pain management specialist included the opinion that five people named in the indictment would still be alive without Kraynak’s prescriptions.

Left without an expert, Kraynak accepted the offer to plead guilty, Cesare argues. He maintains that he is innocent, she said.

His plea did not include charges accusing him of prescribing drugs that killed the five people.

The victims of the 12 counts to which Kraynak pleaded guilty died, but he was not charged in their deaths.

In a brief in support of his motion to allow Kraynak to withdraw his plea, Cesare wrote:

  • The 12 people named in the indictment were treated within the framework of a legitimate and valid doctor/patient relationship.
  • There was a logical connection between the medications prescribed and the conditions they were suffering from because the medications were licensed by the Food and Drug Administration.
  • Errors were made in the indictment and nothing in the Controlled Substances Act states that if a doctor does not practice in accordance with the manners listed in the indictment, he is engaged in the criminal distribution of dope.
  • The defense attorney ignored Kraynak’s request to recruit a medical examiner as a potential expert witness and instead secured a pain specialist first and then a toxicologist as a potential expert.
  • Neither a pain specialist nor a toxicologist would have been able to refute Thomas’ opinion without the cause of death.
  • Kraynak did not have time to fully review the plea deal because it was only offered an hour before the trial resumed and he was told it would be the last he would receive.

Cesare says the government will not be harmed by the withdrawal of the guilty plea because he presumably kept all the evidence and the Mount Carmel resident was not convicted.

In March, Brann slammed the doctor, calling his plea withdrawal motion inappropriate, frivolous, baseless and a “blocking tactic” to avoid conviction. But he said he would listen to all the evidence he had to present before deciding whether to grant or deny it.

He has a high level to overcome, said Assistant U.S. Attorney William Behe, one of the prosecutors.

He called Kraynak’s delaying tactics “despicable”, but said the judge did the right thing by giving “a fresh look” the opportunity to examine his claims.

Kraynak, who had offices in Shamokin and Mount Carmel, was nicknamed the “pill mill” doctor because he had been the top prescriber of oxycodone and hydrocodone in Pennsylvania.

Jurors were presented with evidence that Kraynak prescribed nearly 5.5 million oxycodone and hydrocodone pills from 2014 to 2017. Pharmacists testified that they stopped filling his prescriptions due to the volume of those- this.

The State Board of Osteopathic Medicine suspended his license to practice medicine and the state Department of Health revoked his ability to write prescriptions for medical marijuana.

Kraynak gave up his Drug Enforcement Administration license to distribute controlled substances as a condition of being released on an unsecured $500,000 bail following his December 2017 arrest.

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