SOURCE: A Just Cause

A Just Cause

February 11, 2016 06:00 ET

Federal Judge Christine Arguello Demonstrates Sentencing Disparities in Public Record Documents in Dr. Sam Jahani Case, Says Advocacy Group A Just Cause

Judge Sentences Dr. Jahani to Six Months in Prison in a Conspiracy Case Involving Health Care Fraud and the Deaths of Four Patients, According to Daily Sentinel Article by Charles Ashby

DENVER, CO--(Marketwired - February 11, 2016) - "We firmly believe that the decision in this case would have been vastly different had the defendants been black or of minority status. America is in clear discussions regarding racial disparities making their way into our courtrooms all across America," says Lamont Banks, Executive Director of A Just Cause, a justice advocacy group seeking true balance and accountability in the judicial process.

"This is unheard of in our justice system and must be looked into. This doctor was facing life in prison, but pled guilty and his sentence is reduced to this magnitude? That makes no sense," concludes Lisa Stewart, of A Just Cause.

"What is alarming about this case is Federal Judge Christine Arguello stated that, based on the evidence presented in the case, it was unlikely that Jahani would have been convicted. If that were the case, why would Jahani need to take a plea deal? The case would have been dismissed at the preliminary hearing, which determines whether there is sufficient evidence to proceed," states Banks.

Tonya Creel was a former worker in the office of Dr. Jahani and became a "whistleblower" of sorts in exposing the actions of the doctors involved in these crimes, according to court documents, which are public record.

The potential FCA violation involves the doctors overcharging Medicare for physician services Jahani or other Urgent Care physicians provided, and the billing of Medicare for patient visits at the hospital and at the nursing homes, which Jahani did not actually make. 

According to court documents, Tonya Creel contends that she was retaliated against and wrongfully discharged because she placed the defendants on notice, either directly or by and through their agents or representatives, that she was taking, or had taken action in furtherance of a potential FCA (qui tam action.)

It appears that Judge Arguello disregarded the fact that Dr. Sam Jahani was involved with overprescribing pain control medications to several patients, four of whom died, according to court documents. Judge Arguello went further by stating that even the two years required under the plea was too harsh and reduced it further. Judge Arguello stated that there were extenuating reasons for not giving him that much prison time.

A Just Cause has repeatedly attacked the conduct and racial disparities in the criminal proceedings in the case of the IRP6. That disparity was not only in the proceedings, but also in the sentencing. "According to court documents, which are of public record and available, Judge Arguello excluded so much of the evidence that she single-handedly debilitated the IRP6 defense and left them facing what turned out to be insurmountable odds in the eyes of the jury," states Banks.

"For Judge Arguello to disallow expert witnesses in the IRP6 case, admit to the defendants that she knew the witnesses were critical to their case, then make the statement that she allowed a plea deal for this doctor because the expert witnesses would cause the prosecutor's case to crumble, shows the desperate need for Congress' Sentencing Reform initiatives. According to court documents, how can Judge Arguello justify sentencing defendants 7 to 11 years for incurring debt, as admitted by the FBI lead investigator, but allow Dr. Jahani, charged with crimes much worse, to spend 6 months in prison and 6 months home detention, which is confirmed by court documents and available for the public to review," adds Stewart.

"It is appalling to see Judge Arguello sentence a person to LESS than the minimum required. She uses her personal opinion of what could have happened in the case to determine the sentence. That is the epitome of judicial misconduct," adds Cliff Stewart of A Just Cause.

"According to the facts of the case, how does a Judge hand down a sentence of no consequence with four lives lost? What about the victims and their families seeking justice? In light of this sentence, it is clear that this Judge must be investigated. Why? For many reasons -- one in particular is her over reaching and cruel sentencing of the IRP6," concludes Stewart.

Retired Federal Judge H Lee Sarokin, known as the judge who freed Hurricane Carter from prison on grounds of true injustice, has chimed in on the actions of Judge Christine Arguello's sentencing practices. Judge Sarokin stated the following:

"…Finally, there is the treatment of the defendants -- unusually long sentences -- denied bail pending appeal as flight risks," says Sarokin. "None (of the defendants) have any criminal records. They all belonged to the same church and lived in the same community. They and their families are replete with service in the armed forces and a long history of such service. They have families," adds Sarokin. "(In comparison) White executives who have supervised or directed conduct that has resulted in death of consumers and employees are not even charged, and yet these 5 African-Americans (and one white colleague) are pursued relentlessly and punished harshly for basically the failure to pay corporate debts," argues Sarokin.

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