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Heberle, 39, a doctor of
osteopathic medicine, was acquitted of 14 counts of violating state drug laws
and 12 counts of Medicaid fraud.
The prosecution had withdrawn one count of each charge at some point before the
case went to the jury.
The trial, which started May 9, featured testimony from medical experts and
Heberle's former patients and their families. Heberle's practice was at
Southeast Medical Center, 1306 E. 38th St.
Juror Marci Berlin said problems with the prosecution's case surfaced on the
second day of testimony in the two-week trial.
"(Heberle) was dealing with an impossible population of patients who no one else
wanted. We all realized there are some things he could have done differently. He
did all he could do," she said.
Each day of the trial, Heberle's supporters lined the benches in the small
Heberle's wife, Christine, wept at the verdict. Afterward, she stood and gave
her husband a long hug.
The couple declined to comment at length Monday.
"I am just glad it is over," Christine Heberle said.
Heberle's attorney, John Moore, called the verdict "absolutely correct."
He said the prosecution's expert made several mistakes when he reviewed the
patients' medical records.
"He really didn't have all the information about how Dr. Heberle interacted with
some of his patients," he said.
Moore said the defense's strongest evidence was that the patients at issue in
the case were already on pain medication when they came to see Heberle.
Many of the patients were former patients of David Klees, D.O., who was
convicted of writing illegal prescriptions in 2002. Heberle was not in a
position to just cut them off of their medications, Moore said.
"He had to work without their past records and history and try to find the most
beneficial (treatment) without pushing them to the point where they got more
than they actually needed," he said.
Moore said the prosecution told jurors that two of Heberle's patients died. But
testimony failed to show "any link between Dr. Heberle's treatment and the
causes of those deaths," he said.
One of Heberle's other attorneys, Donald Wagner, credited the verdict to
The jury saw the "professional sacrifices" Heberle made. "He took a group of
people nobody else would treat," he said.
The prosecution alleged Heberle did not adhere to medical standards when he
wrote prescriptions for powerful narcotics such as fentanyl and OxyContin for
several patients. It said two of those patients died.
"The crime comes in blatant disregard for safety in the way he prescribed these
drugs," Senior Deputy State Attorney General Doug Wright told jurors in his
Wright said such cases can be difficult to prove in court.
"You are dealing with a standard-of-care argument. You have conflicting
testimony from experts. It is difficult to discern what is the appropriate
standard of care," he said.
Wright accepted the jury's verdict.
"We feel we had a full hearing," he said.
"We worked very hard for the two weeks bringing a case we felt needed to be
brought before a jury's consideration. Although we were disappointed in the
verdict that they reached, we have absolutely no doubt they worked very hard in
reaching their decision and paid very close attention," he said.
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