Allegations of potential juror misconduct failed to sway Senior U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge to order a new trial for Dr. Michael Minas.
Minas, who was accused of running a pill mill, was convicted in May on 80 counts of unlawfully distributing prescription painkillers without a legitimate medical purpose. The jury acquitted him of 59 additional counts.
In seeking a new trial, Minas’ attorney claimed that after the first trial a juror told someone at a Star bar that he heard Minas had been cooking methamphetamine at his home. That information wasn’t presented at trial. The defense said there was conflicting information on whether the juror heard it during the trial, or after deliberations were completed and jurors were dismissed.
Lodge called the juror, who was not publicly identified, into court for questioning. Neither Minas, his attorney nor the public was allowed to attend. Notes from the June 28 hearing were sealed by Lodge and remain unavailable for viewing.
According to a subsequent filing by federal prosecutors, the juror told Lodge that he heard the allegation about Minas manufacturing methamphetamine from two doctors for whom his wife is a nanny. The conversation took place, the juror said, after the verdict was reached and jurors were released from service.
“So nothing like that or any similar extraneous examination was shared with other jurors during deliberations, to your knowledge?” Lodge asked, according to prosecutors.
“No, none, because I did not know,” the juror said.
Defense attorney C. Tom Arkoosh asked Lodge to interview other jurors to learn whether they were told the allegations of Minas producing meth. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Maloney objected, saying the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has held it is improper and unethical for lawyers to interview jurors to discover what happened during jury deliberations.
“The court is free to engage in further juror interviews if the circumstances suggest the need; however, the facts do not indicate a sufficient basis to justify additional interviews in the Minas case,” Maloney wrote.
It’s not clear what other grounds Arkoosh might have raised in seeking a new trial. Lodge sealed the motion, along with the government’s response.
“The motion for a new trial must be denied as there is no evidence before the court that the jury considered extrinsic evidence beyond that which was admitted at the trial,” Lodge wrote.
Minas is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 9. He faces up to 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine on each count.