Tag Archive: mark shuster insurance


 

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A jury has found former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor guilty of third-degree murder and second degree manslaughter in the killing of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, an Australian woman who called 911 to report a possible sexual assault in the alley behind her home. The jury of ten men and two women acquitted Noor on an additional count of second-degree murder in the killing.  Noor faces up to 12 and a half years for third-degree murder and four years for second-degree manslaughter. His sentencing date is set for June 7.

For each charge, the jury had to unanimously decide whether they believed Noor was guilty or not guilty. Each charge Noor faced involved causing the death of Ruszczyk, but the three counts have different elements.  Second-degree murder means killing someone intentionally, but without premeditation.  Third-degree murder includes acting with a “depraved mind” — shooting without knowing the target — and “without regard for human life” in causing someone’s death, but without intending to do so.  Second-degree manslaughter is acting in a negligent way and creating an “unreasonable risk” in actions that cause death.

Noor’s lawyer said a “perfect storm” of events led him to open fire on Ruszczyk the night of July 15, 2017, when she called 911 to report a possible assault in progress in an alley behind her Minneapolis home.  Ruszczyk called police twice that night — once to report a possible assault, then to see where officers were.  When they arrived on the scene, Noor and his partner Matthew Harrity drove down an alley in south Minneapolis with their squad car’s lights down. They drove slowly and quietly.

Then, Harrity testified, he heard a “thump” and a “murmur.” Ruszczyk approached the officers on their vehicle’s driver’s side.  Noor, who was seated in the passenger seat, shot Ruszczyk through the open driver’s-side window of the vehicle as she approached his police cruiser in her pajamas.  Noor testified that he feared for his partner’s life as Ruszczyk approached their squad car in the dark, empty alley. But Hennepin County prosecutors said Noor overreacted and failed to properly assess the situation before firing a gunshot into Ruszczyk’s abdomen.  Ruszczyk was pronounced dead on the scene.

Sixty witnesses testified during the nearly month-long trial, including use-of-force experts, neighbors, and Noor’s partner, Matthew Harrity.  Harrity was behind the wheel of their squad car when Noor shot Ruszczyk from the passenger seat. He testified that he was startled by a noise on the rear driver’s side door as Ruszczyk approached the vehicle.  Noor testified that Harrity’s terrified expression and the sight of Ruszczyk with her hand raised jolted him into action. Although he did not see a gun in Ruszczyks’ hand, he feared his partner might be shot as she began to raise her hand, he said.

Experts differed on whether Noor’s use of force was reasonable or justified.  The prosecution’s use of force expert said that Noor’s use of deadly force was unreasonable.  Being “startled” is different than “fearing death or great bodily harm.”  The defense’s use of force expert said Noor’s conduct was an “objectively reasonable” response to the situation.  “It’s late at night. It’s dark in the alley,” Kapelsohn said, noting Noor heard his partner say “oh Jesus.”

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A federal jury in Boston has found Insys Therapeutics founder John Kapoor, as well as four former Insys managers, guilty of racketeering conspiracy.  Former vice president Michael Gurry, ex-national sales director Richard Simon, former regional sales director Joseph Rowan, and one-time stripper turned Insys sales manager Sunrise Lee were also found guilty.

They were accused of bribing doctors to prescribe a highly addictive fentanyl spray to patients who didn’t need it. One of the defendants, Sunrise Lee, allegedly gave a lap dance to a doctor at a company event in order to persuade him to prescribe the drug. The charges call for up to 20 years in prison, but as first-time offenders, Kapoor and the others would likely get only a fraction of that.

The trial against former billionaire Kapoor and four other company executives began in January and lasted into April. Insys managers Michael Gurry, Richard Simon, Sunrise Lee were also convicted. The executives were accused of conspiring to bribe clinicians to prescribe the company’s potent fentanyl spray medication off-label.  Former CEO Michael Babich and former vice president of sales Alec Burlakoff, pleaded guilty before this year’s trial began.

Michael Babich testified against his former colleagues during the trial and told jurors that Insys recruited sales representatives who were “easy on the eyes” because they knew physicians didn’t want an “unattractive person to walk in their door.”

Prosecutors allege that to boost sales for Subsys, which is meant for cancer patients with severe pain-bribes were paid in the form of fees for sham speaking events that were billed as educational opportunities for other doctors.  Prosecutors said Insys staffers also misled insurers about patients’ medical conditions and posed as doctors’ office employees in order to get payment approved for the costly drug.

Kapoor is the first chief executive officer of an opioid maker to be convicted at a trial. The verdict signals that the public is willing to hold pharmaceutical executives accountable for the U.S. crisis and comes as thousands of state and local governments press civil lawsuits against drug-makers to recover billions of dollars spent combating the epidemic.

The guilty verdict comes as companies including Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., Purdue Pharma LP, Johnson & Johnson and Endo International Plc are preparing to face trials over allegations by states and local governments that their sales campaigns fueled a crisis which is costing billions of dollars annually and claims more than 100 lives daily in the United States.  The Sackler family, Purdue’s billionaire owners, are facing a new wave of lawsuits over its role in the marketing of OxyContin. They, like the companies, deny wrongdoing.

 

 

 

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The FBI has arrested the head of a vigilante militia group that has repeatedly filmed itself holding migrant border crossers at gunpoint in New Mexico.  Larry Mitchell Hopkins, the leader of the far-right, pro-Trump group calling itself United Constitutional Patriots (UCP), allegedly rounded up and held asylum seekers at gun point while posing as US Border Patrol Agents.  Videos posted on social media showed members of Hopkins’s militia pursuing migrants in New Mexico’s desert west of El Paso, Texas, holding them at gunpoint and coordinating their arrests with U.S. Border Patrol agents.

UCP and Hopkins claim to work alongside Border Patrol, though the agency has denied working with UCP.  A Border Patrol official released a statement that “U.S. Customs and Border Protection does not endorse private groups or organizations taking enforcement matters into their own hands.  Interference by civilians in law enforcement matters could have public safety and legal consequences for all parties involved.”

Mitchell, 69, of Flora Vista in northern New Mexico, was indicted on a charge of being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition.  The charge doesn’t specifically relate to Hopkins’ activities at the border but rather to a federal investigation from 2017.   According to court documents, in November 2017, FBI agents visited Hopkins Flora Vista home after learning he previously claimed the group was training to assassinate Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.  They found Hopkins was in possession of nine firearms and ammunition.  He had three prior felony convictions dating back to 1996, including impersonating a policee officer in the state of Oregon in 2006.  If convicted on the charge in the indictment, Hopkins faces a maximum penalty of ten years of imprisonment, according to prosecutors.

Federal officials have not commented on the timing of the charges against Hopkins for offenses committed in Nov. 2017.  NPR reporter Mallory Falk said “It’s a group of armed civilians often dressed in military fatigues. They’ve been camped out in Sunland Park, N.M., which is a small community very close to the U.S.-Mexico border. And they’ve been stopping migrant families that they’re encountering crossing the border who are trying to come into the U.S. to claim asylum. They’ve been stopping those families, telling them to sit on the ground, and then calling Border Patrol, and Border Patrol then comes in and apprehends those families.”  Falk said that Mitchell’s attorney suggested that state officials want to stop the group’s border activities and are using charges that are a year-and-a-half old to put pressure on them.

Hopkins’ attorney, Kelly O’Connell, said that the militia group believes it is aiding an overstretched Border Patrol.  “They generally think that Border Patrol is spread too thin and that there are gaps in the system or there’s literal gaps in the fence,” said O’Connell. “They think they believe that they are helping to enforce the law of America.”  The group has had an encampment in the area since November 2018, and claims to have detained 3,000 migrants in all.

 

Stop & Shop Strike Ends

 

 

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After more than three months of negotiations and 11 days on strike, over 30,000 Stop & Shop workers have reached a tentative agreement with the supermarket chain that they said met their demands for better pay, health care coverage and other benefits.  The employees, members of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union at more than 240 Stop & Shops across Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, returned to work on April 22 after reaching the deal on Sunday.

During an interview, union spokeswoman Jessica Raimundo said “The new contract does satisfy the different points of contention.  The agreement preserves health care and retirement benefits, provides wage increases, and maintains time-and-a-half pay on Sunday for current members.  Under this proposed contract, our members will be able to focus on continuing to help customers in our communities.”   Details of the proposed three-year agreement will not be made public until the 31,000 union members across five locals ratify the contract.

A previous three-year contract expired on Feb. 23, and workers had protested what they considered cuts in the new contract to health care, take-home pay and other benefits. Stop & Shop continued negotiations with the union throughout the strike.  During negotiations, Stop & Shop employees argued that the chain’s parent company, Ahold Delhaize, reported profits of more than $2 billion to its shareholders last year, and could afford to compensate workers better.

Stop & Shop is a subsidiary of Dutch supermarket giant Ahold Delhaize, with 415 stores across the Northeast. Workers at company stores in New York and New Jersey were not on strike.  Stop & Shop is one of the last remaining union shops in the industry and the largest grocery store chain in New England.

Workers on strike included cashiers, stockers, bakers, deli clerks and butchers.  When the strike began, Stop & Shops across the three states set in motion a contingency plan to keep the stores open. The chain sent out support staff members and temporary replacement workers to several supermarkets but some stores were forced to close during the strike.  The company limited its offerings amid the strikes. Stop & Shop President Mark McGowan said in a letter April 16 that most stores would remain open for 12 hours, seven days a week. However, he said bakery, customer service, deli, seafood counters and gas stations would not be operational.

Stop & Shop released a statement following the end of the strike and said it was thankful for its customers’ patience.  “The tentative three-year agreements, which are subject to ratification votes by members of each of the union locals, include: increased pay for all associates; continued excellent health coverage for eligible associates; and ongoing defined pension benefits for all eligible associates.  Our associates’ top priority will be restocking our stores so we can return to taking care of our customers and communities and providing them with the services they deserve. We deeply appreciate the patience and understanding of our customers during this time, and we look forward to welcoming them back to Stop & Shop.”

 

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Colorado police say they discovered the body of a Florida teenager who had allegedly threatened to mark the 20th anniversary of the Columbine High School shootings with a massacre of her own. Eighteen-year-old Sol Pais was found in the mountains west of Denver, dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. Police said Pais, who was “infatuated” with the Columbine massacre, had traveled to Denver Monday, buying a gun and ammunition in Littleton, CO before making threats that the FBI called “credible” but nonspecific.

Denver area schools, including Columbine High School, increased security Tuesday after the news broke.  The threats prompted authorities to cancel Wednesday classes across 20 districts in the Denver area for more than a half-million students.  April 20th marks the 20th anniversary of the mass shooting at Columbine High—in which two students killed 12 fellow students and one teacher.

On Monday, Pais, a high school senior, purchased three one-way airplane tickets to Denver for consecutive days and left her Miami home.  Her parents reported her missing to local police and investigators discovered Pais was infatuated with the Columbine shooting so they called the Miami FBI office.  She kept an online journal that included sketches of one of the killers, Dylan Klebold and of guns. Social media posts along with comments she made to others led the FBI to see her as a credible threat.  Special Agent Dean Phillips, who is in charge of the Denver office, said Pais never made a specific threat to a specific school.

As the FBI began tracking Pais’ whereabouts, agents also began informing local law enforcement that Pais was in the area and that she was armed, prompting Tuesday’s lockdown and Wednesday’s cancellations.  Authorities have said she arrived in Denver late Monday morning and then went to a gun shop near Littleton, where she purchased a pump-action shotgun and two boxes of ammunition.   Even as schools began increasing security Tuesday afternoon, authorities had evidence that she was at Mount Evans with no means to come back to the city.

Authorities say Pais was dropped off by a rideshare service, about 56 miles west of Columbine High School at a pullout on Highway 103 at the base of Mount Evans in Clear Creek County.  She told the driver that she wanted to see snow.  From that moment, the 18-year-old dressed in a black T-shirt and camouflaged pants was on foot with no tent, no sleeping bag and no coat.  Searches had begun in and around Mount Evans as law enforcement continued to view her as a credible threat until they had located her.

Law enforcement stopped the search late Tuesday but resumed Wednesday morning.  They notified the Denver school district after Pais’s body was located and classes resumed on Thursday.  Authorities said Wednesday they are continuing to look into Pais’ communication, personal connections and social media usage from the past year to investigate whether she had any other accomplices. The FBI did not directly address a website linked to Pais in which she posted a series of disorganized rants that talk mostly about her hopelessness and loneliness.

 

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A man accused of setting fire to three historically black churches in Louisiana has been charged with hate crimes.  Holden Matthews, the 21-year-old son of a deputy sheriff, was originally charged with two counts of simple arson of a religious building and one count of aggravated arson of a religious building after being arrested last week.

Authorities arrested Matthews, the son of a St. Landry Parish sheriff’s deputy, last week on suspicion he set fires to three churches over the span of about 10 days.  The first blaze occurred at St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre on March 26.  On April 2, the Greater Union Baptist Church in Opelousas was set ablaze and then the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Opelousas on April 4.  All three churches were in St. Landry Parish, about 30 minutes north of Lafayette.

An arrest warrant reportedly showed that officials connected Matthews to the crimes through the charred remains of a brand of gas can found at the scene of the April 4 fire.  Investigators learned that a Walmart in Opelousas was a local seller of the Scepter-branded can found at the scene.  Walmart informed investigators that two Scepter cans were purchased late on March 25 — less than three hours before the first fire — along with a 10-pack of automotive cloths and a lighter, according to the affidavit. The receipt showed the purchase was made with a debit card in the name of Holden Matthews.

Investigators also obtained surveillance photos of the purchaser and the pickup he was driving. The affidavit said a Ford pickup like the one Matthews was driving was registered to the suspect’s father, Roy.  The same color and model pickup that Matthews drives was also seen at two of the churches shortly before the fires were reported to 911, according to video footage referenced in the arrest warrant.

The affidavit said the pickup was also later captured driving by the scene of the fire and slowing down. A firefighter also reported seeing the pickup near the burning church.  During his Monday hearing, prosecutors said cellphone evidence placed Matthews at the scenes of the three fires, including photos and videos.   District Judge James Doherty said “There is a substantial amount of evidence, it appears,” before denying Matthews bond and setting a trial date for September.

Matthew’s father, Roy Matthews was unaware of his son’s alleged involvement and was not personally part of the investigation, Sheriff Bobby Guidroz told reporters.  Governor John Bel Edwards told reporters “I don’t know what this young man’s motive was, I don’t know what was in his heart, but I can say it cannot be justified or rationalized.  These were evil acts. But let me be clear about this, hate is not a Louisiana value.”  Church burnings were a common occurrence in the Jim Crow era and church fires in the South — immediately bring to mind such racist attacks.

The FBI and federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are assisting in the investigations. The NAACP has labeled the fires “domestic terrorism,” adding that the “spike in church burnings in Southern states is a reflection of the emboldened racial rhetoric and tension spreading across the country.”

 

 

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Three former New York City firefighters involved in the 9/11 rescue effort died last week, within 48 hours of each other.   Retired FDNY Lt. Timothy O’Neill, 60, died on April 2 and Firefighter Kevin Lennon, 54, died on April 4 from 9/11-related cancers — nearly 18 years after responding to the terror attacks.  A third retired FDNY member, Fire Marshal Michael Andreachi, died within the same time period.  His death has not been officially linked to the 9/11 illness he was suffering from.

Their deaths come as 101 survivors who either responded to, or lived and worked near Ground Zero following the terror attacks have passed away from a 9/11 illness since September.  John Feal, survivor advocate John Feal said survivors are passing away at a rate of about 12 a month — or three a week.  Between September 2017 and September 2018, 163 survivors passed away from 9/11 illnesses-which was the highest recorded number of 9/11 related deaths since the terror attacks.  Feal said that if the current rate continues, the number number deaths will exceed last years.  “9/11 is still killing,” Feal said  “Sadly, this fragile community of heroes and survivors is shrinking by the day.”

FDNY lost 343 fire fighters on the day of the attack and more than 180 FDNY employees have died of illnesses from the toxic dust at Ground Zero since the terror attack.  It’s estimated that 90,000 first responders showed up at the WTC in the aftermath of the attack. An additional 400,000 survivors lived and worked in the area at the time.  Nearly 10,000 first responders and others who were in the World Trade Center area have been diagnosed with cancer. More than 2,000 deaths have been attributed to 9/11 illnesses.

More than 7,000 FDNY Firefighters police officers and EMTs have been treated for a 9/11 injury or illness in the 18 years after the attack.  5,400 members have been diagnosed with lower respiratory diseases such as asthma, chronic bronchitis, and less commonly emphysema, COPD, sarcoidosis or pulmonary fibrosis.  Another 5,200 members have been diagnosed with upper respiratory diseases such as chronic rhinosinusitis and/or vocal cord diseases.  5,400 members have also been diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disorders.

According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, when the planes crashed into the towers, 24,000 gallons of jet fuel ignited a fire that spread to 100,000 tons of organic debris and 230,000 gallons of transformer, heating and diesel oils in the buildings, setting off a giant toxic plume of soot and dust from pulverized building materials, The fires continued to burn during the rescue and recovery operations at Ground Zero, and workers were exposed to chemicals like asbestos, carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, crystalline silica and other metals and particulates.

Epidemiology studies have confirmed that 9/11 emergency responders and recovery workers have significantly higher rates of thyroid cancer and skin melanoma than found in the general population.  They also face a higher risk of bladder cancer.  Non-responders have had significantly higher rates of breast cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, leukemia and other blood-cell disorders.  As the population of those in the area of the World Trade Center attacks increases, so will the number of cancer cases and other 9/11 illness related deaths.

The World Trade Center Health Program, a fund set up to cover healthcare costs for 9/11 first responders and survivors is set to expire in 2020.  Since so many victims have been requesting compensation, the fund is now expected to run out of money even before the deadline.  Earlier this year, lawmakers including New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announced a bill to permanently fund the federal program and extend its authorization through 2090.

 

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Texas police have dropped a felony arrest warrant against 24 year old L’Daijohnique Lee, who was threatened with a gun and brutally beaten by 30-year-old Austin Shuffield in a Dallas parking lot on March 21.   Shuffield’s own charges were upgraded after video of the assault went viral.  The attack occurred after what should have been a minor traffic dispute but quickly escalated to violence.

The assault began when Lee’s car was reportedly blocking the exit the parking lot exit behind a barbershop and bar where Shuffield worked serving drinks.  The victim told police that she was driving the wrong way down a street when Shuffield stopped her, got out of his truck and told her to move out of the way because she was blocking the exit to the parking lot.  She said after she moved her car into the parking lot, Shuffield followed her and they got into an argument.  When she tried calling 911, Shuffield slapped her phone out of her hand.

Bystander video shows Shuffield confronting her with a gun in his hand.  When the victim pulled out her phone to call 911, Sheffield slapped it out of her hand.  After he slapped her phone out of her hand she hit him.   Shuffield is then seen savagely punching Lee at least five times while shouting racial slurs before attempting to kick or stomp on her phone that was still on the ground.

Initially Lee was charged with felony criminal mischief for allegedly smashing the windows of Shuffield’s truck after she was assaulted by him but those charges were later dropped.  The assault left Lee with a concussion and cranial swelling.  Shuffield was arrested minutes after the attack and charged with one count of assault and interference with an emergency call.  He was released the next day on the two misdemeanor charges

His charges were upgraded last week after video of the assault circulated on several social media outlets, sparking protests.  His upgraded charges include unlawfully carrying a weapon, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, bodily injury, interfering with an emergency call and public-intoxication misdemeanor charges.  He has since been released from jail.  Shuffield was fired from his job as a bartender at Deep Ellum’s High and Tight Barbershop and his former employer said it was shocking to see such violent behavior from someone who was otherwise a very good employee.

L’Daijohnique Lee’s attorney Lee Merritt said that his client was “pleased” to learn that Shuffield will face more serious charges. “Ms. Lee will fully cooperate with DA John Creuzot who has indicated he would like to interview her directly in order to ensure a thorough presentation to the Grand Jury,” Merrit said in a statement. “We believe that additional details from the DA investigation will warrant hate crime enhancements as well.”

Merritt criticized the Dallas police officer who arrested Shuffield for not filing the felony charges in the first place, and credited the backlash on social media and protests in Deep Ellum with spurring the police department to take action. “Despite reviewing video evidence, independent witness statements, securing a firearm and receiving the victim statement,” Merritt wrote. “However, we are grateful that after significant community backlash and protest more serious charges were perused. The delay however has allowed a dangerous assailant to continue to roam freely among the public and had caused Ms. Lee a great deal of unrest.”

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Autopsy results have been released in the case of murdered 21-year-old USC student Samantha Josephson, showing she died of “multiple sharp force injuries.” Police believe the University of South Carolina senior and aspiring lawyer was kidnapped and killed after she mistakenly got into a car she believed to be her Uber ride after leaving a bar around 2am Friday morning in Columbia, South Carolina.  The suspect, Nathaniel Rowland, was arrested Saturday and charged with murder and kidnapping.

The investigation began after friends of 21-year-old Josephson filed a missing person’s report around 1:30 p.m. Friday. They told police they were separated from her the night before in the Five Points district and had not been able to get in touch with her after she did not return to The Hub, an apartment complex on Main Street where she lived with friends.  Clarendon County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a report of a body found in a rural area 70 miles from Columbia, around 4pm Friday. Turkey hunters found a body, later identified as Josephson, in a field near a wooded area about 40 feet off a dirt road.

Around the same time, Columbia police publicized Josephson was missing and shared details of a related vehicle.  Surveillance video shows Josephson standing near the road of a crowded street corner, on her cell phone, reportedly trying to find her Uber driver.  A black Chevrolet Impala pulls up into a parking spot next to where she’s standing and she’s seen getting into the back seat of the vehicle.  Prosecutors said 24-year-old Nathanial Rowland, who is not a driver for Uber or Lyft, activated the child locks on his car when Josephson got in, trapping her.

Rowland was arrested around 3 a.m. Saturday, after a Columbia canine officer on patrol spotted the black Chevrolet Impala that matched the description of the vehicle involved in Josephson’s disappearance, two blocks from the Five Points area.  When the officer stopped the vehicle and asked Rowland to step out of the vehicle, he fled on foot.  The officer took him into custody after a foot chase and returned to the vehicle, where a large amount of blood was discovered in the trunk of the vehicle.

Investigators would later find her cell phone, bleach, window cleaner and more blood in the vehicle. Investigators also discovered that the child locks were enabled so Josephson would have been trapped in the back seat of the car.  Police say that there was a woman in the car with Rowland at the time of his arrest, she has been described as a friend of the suspect and is co-operating with the investigation.

Arrest warrants say Josephson had “numerous wounds evident on multiple parts of her body to include her head, neck, face, upper body, leg and foot.”  Josephson was a senior at USC majoring in political science, according to Jeffrey Stensland, a USC spokesman from the communications department.  Josephson would have graduated this spring and had planned to start law school in the fall.

Samantha’s father, Seymour Josephson, said he would dedicate himself to improving the safety of ride-sharing services.  Her mother Marci Josephson described her daughter as bubbly, loving, kind and full of life.  In her comments to the judge she said “There are no words to describe the immense pain his actions have caused our family and friends.  He’s taken away a piece of our heart, soul and life.”  She also described Rowland’s alleged actions as senseless and vile.

Rowland has not appeared in court and the date of his bond hearing has not yet been set but he will remain in jail until then.  If convicted, Rowland could face up to life in prison or the possibility of the death penalty. Under South Carolina law, kidnapping carries up to 30 years in prison.

 

 

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New York State announced a sweeping lawsuit against members of the Sackler family, the owner of Purdue Pharma, which makes OxyContin, the highly addictive drug at the center of the opioid epidemic.  A group of over 500 cities, counties and Native American tribes have filed suit against Purdue and 8 members of the Sackler family, which founded and owns Purdue Pharma, for their role in creating “the worst drug crisis in American history” by lying about the dangers of the opioid painkiller OxyContin and deceitful marketing of the drug.

New York Attorney General Letitia James accused the Sacklers of masterminding a scheme that “literally profited off of … suffering and death.”  While announcing the suit, James said “And as Purdue sold more and more opioids, the Sackler family transferred more and more wealth into their personal accounts. And as the lawsuits have piled up against the Sackler family and Purdue for their roles in this crisis, they continue to move funds into trusts and, yes, offshore accounts.”  The suit states that the Sackler family is worth an estimated $13 billion, partly due to the more-than-decade-long marketing campaign to boost sales of OxyContin.  At the same time, the economic cost to the U.S. for the opioid epidemic was $504 billion in 2015, the lawsuit contends.  Former Purdue CEO Richard Sackler allegedly touted the drug for unapproved uses and that Purdue workers were instructed to tell doctors the painkillers were not addictive and could help an “enhanced lifestyle,” according to the suit.

Portions of a lawsuit filed by the state of Massachusetts against Purdue that were made public, allege that the company, the Sackler family, and company executives misled prescribers and patients as they aimed to blanket the country with prescriptions for their addictive medications.  Five years after the drug was released to the market, questions were raised about the risk of addiction and overdoses that came with taking OxyContin and opioid medications.  Richard Sackler outlined a strategy that critics have long accused the company of unleashing: divert the blame onto others, particularly the people who became addicted to opioids themselves.  In a February 2001 email he wrote “We have to hammer on the abusers in every way possible.  They are the culprits and the problem. They are reckless criminals.”  The Massachusetts suit claims “By their misconduct, the Sacklers have hammered Massachusetts families in every way possible and the stigma they used as a weapon made the crisis worse.”  The complaint reveals that since 2007, Purdue has sold more than 70 million doses of opioids in Massachusetts for more than $500 million. “And the stigma they used as a weapon made the crisis worse.”

Purdue and the family denied any wrongdoing in a statement “The latest legal action is part of a larger effort to “single out Purdue,” and fault it for the entire crisis.  Purdue Pharma and the individual former directors vigorously denies the allegations in the complaint and will continue to defend themselves against these misleading allegations,” the statement said.

The state of Oklahoma recently reached a $270 million agreement with Purdue Pharma—settling a lawsuit that claimed the company contributed to the deaths of thousands of Oklahoma residents by downplaying the risk of opioid addiction and overstating the drug’s benefits.  More than $100 million of the settlement will fund a new addiction treatment and research center at Oklahoma State University.  The settlement is the first Purdue has made amid more than 2,000 pending lawsuits connecting its painkiller OxyContin to the opioid crisis-which U.S. government data estimates is responsible for nearly 50,000 deaths per year.