ALPENA - Twenty-sixth Circuit Court Judge Michael Mack will decide on an appeal to dismiss a charge of prescription fraud against Presque Isle County's prosecuting attorney.
Mack said he'll review the transcript from a preliminary hearing in 88th District Court earlier this year, and decide on a motion to appeal Judge Theodore Johnson's decision to dismiss the case. Assistant Attorney General Gregory Townsend argued Friday that the court abused its discretion when he didn't bind over the charge against Richard Steiger.
Townsend argued that Steiger's testimony conflicted with the accounts given by Jeffery Kwiatkowski, Dr. Robert Coombs and Dr. Jeffrey Kiel, all medical professionals who had prescribed narcotic painkillers to Steiger in 2010 and 2011. Mack said the questions of fact were created by Coombs' and Kiel's testimony alone, and asked where any omissions on Steiger's part might be.
News Photo by Jordan Travis
Presque Isle County Prosecutor Richard Steiger, right, speaks with attorney Dan White before hearing arguments to appeal the dismissal of a charge of prescription fraud brought against Steiger. Judge Michael Mack of the 26th Circuit Court said he’ll decide on the appeal within 14 days.
"When (Steiger was) supposed to be giving full disclosure to doctors, he did not do so," Townsend said.
Daniel White, Steiger's counsel, said Steiger had told his doctors about the medications he was taking to deal with pain from sinus issues and migraine headaches. In one case, when Steiger had visited the emergency room at ARMC three days in a row, he had told nurses about his medications each time and they recorded his response three different ways. Kwiatkowski said it was a charting error made by the nurses.
"My client's testimony only compliments his medical records," White said. "The medical records did not complement the testimony of the doctors."
Kiel had conceded that he knew about Coombs' treating Steiger during the period Steiger was accused of obtaining a duplicate prescription, White said. Coombs said he should have seen Steiger more than five times in two years, and said a patient form he uses will be changed to keep him better informed of their medications.
White said doctors have to follow a "do-ask, do-tell" statute compelling them to ask patients about pain medications they might be getting from other sources.
"Every time (Steiger) saw Dr. Coombs, you see reports like this, with all kinds of disclosure," he said.
Townsend repeated Coombs' testimony that Steiger had "minimized" the amount of medication he was taking.
The case began after Huron Undercover Narcotics Team received a tip from Kirah Steiger, his ex-wife, who gave a HUNT officer crushed-up Percocet she took from Steiger's house. She testified that she and his daughter had voiced her concern over his pain killer use, and she went to HUNT out of concern for their daughter and his health. White said Friday that Kirah Steiger had stolen the medication, and pointed out that HUNT officers knew she did so.
After doing an initial investigation, HUNT turned the case over to a different multi-jurisdictional narcotics team. This was to avoid a conflict of interest, as Steiger was providing legal consulting for HUNT at the time. However, HUNT officers participated in the investigation even after turning it over to Straits Area Narcotics Enforcement, a fact that has caused concern with Presque Isle County commissioners, as well as First Lt. Pat Boyd, Michigan State Police commander of Multi-Jurisdictional Task Forces in Northern Michigan.
Johnson dismissed a single charge of prescription fraud after a two-part preliminary hearing in January and February, saying he didn't see any evidence of fraud on Steiger's part. The state attorney general's office filed a brief of appeal in March.
At the end of arguments, Mack said he'd take White's and Townsend's statements under advisement and review the transcript from the preliminary hearing. He'll make a decision on whether to reverse the dismissal within 14 days.
Afterward, Steiger maintained his innocence, and said he was confident Mack "will do the right thing."
"My medical records speak for themselves, they always have, I've always disclosed, I've done nothing wrong, this has been a nightmare and I expect this to be the end of it," he said.
Jordan Travis can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5688.