Prescription drug case: Rand to remain in custody; argument heard for West's release
UPDATE: 5/19/16, 7 p.m.
A federal judge ruled Thursday that Dr. Robert Rand will remain in custody in connection with this case.
Federal Judge Valerie Cooke said despite community support for Rand, she believes he poses a flight risk due to his extensive travel outside the U.S. She also noted the seriousness of the charges and said she believed he was a danger to the community.
The federal courtroom was packed. Several high-profile community members submitted letters of reference to the judge vouching for Dr. Rand's character, including letters from former Reno Police Chief Jim Weston and former Congressman and Gov. Jim Gibbons.
Rand's attorney John Arrascada told the judge Rand would be willing to surrender his DEA license to Nevada's Pharmacy Board making it impossible for Rand to prescribe any more drugs. He also said Rand would agree to give up his medical license making it inactive. Arrascada unsuccessfully argued it would be difficult for Rand to participate in his own defense from the jail due to the complexity of the trial that already contains more than 3,000 pages of evidence, as well as wire taps, revealed so far in discovery.
Cooke spoke from the bench stating prisoners aid in their own defense all the time from a cell. Arrascada fired back, those individuals had been convicted of a crime or crimes and Rand has yet to be tried. Cooke noted that statement is accurate and this situation is different but remained unmoved.
Arrascada also said Rand would agree to GPS monitoring as well as a daily check-in with Pre-Trial Services. He noted Rand's passport has already been seized.
But Cooke said, "I do not have a lot of confidence in Dr. Rand's willingness to say in the U.S. and face these serious charges against him." She brought up several times Rand's extensive travel outside the U.S.
Arrascada explained all the trips were for pleasure or to attend medical school on the island of Dominica. He said the trips going back to 1997 were not to establish contacts, but were for pleasure.
Still, Cooke said she expressed, "sincere skepticism," and noted that during a trip to Cancun, Rand had prescribed more than 18,000 pills. She said, "That is a breathtaking number of pills while on vacation. Maybe medically needed, but it escapes me."
Arrascada said Rand was refilling expired prescriptions while on vacation. He also said Rand would agree to take out a surety bond on his house adding if Rand fled the country, it would leave his wife and 15-month-old daughter homeless. He also said Rand's 85-year-old father had agreed to put up a $150,000 surety bond as well. He said he could not imagine anyone fleeing so that their 85-year-old father would lose that amount of money.
Arrascada said he would appeal Cooke's decision but admitted it would be an uphill battle.
A federal judge on Thursday heard arguments over whether to release Richard Winston West II.
David Houston, West's attorney, argued that his client suffers from a degenerative bone disease and is not receiving the specialized care he needs while detained.
West was stooped over during his appearance, and he appeared to be in pain.
A prosecutor argued he should remain in custody because of the seriousness of the charges, adding that West is a danger to the community and flight risk.
The judge said she would make a decision in a few days.
Houston hinted at the defense. He said so far in discovery he has learned the the case may involve 136 pills over a five month period. He said, "If you do the math, that's about a pill a day and its not the 800 pills a day the U-S government is claiming."
He also said the case hinges on a paid informant who Houston said has a lengthy criminal history that includes felony convictions. Houston also said during the investigation, the information was arrested on charges of illegally possessing heroin adding, "Hou can it be possible that the government can use an individual like this and pay him with my tax dollars? To have him go out and ensnare someone like Richard West. How is that even reasonable?"
West was arrested on April 28, and federal magistrate Judge Valerie Cooke the next day ordered him to remain detained, saying he posed a "significant risk" of non-appearance.
He was later indicted by a federal grand jury on multiple charges, including conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute controlled substances.
Dr. Robert Rand, charged as a co-conspirator in the case, is due to appear in court at 2:30 p.m. Thursday to continue his detention hearing.