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Dr. Weitzel Sues Prosecutors

Dr. Weitzel Sues Prosecutors

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Psychiatrist Robert Weitzel, acquitted in the deaths of five elderly patients and sent to federal prison for prescription fraud, has filed suit claiming malicious prosecution and defamation.

Weitzel claims his due process rights were violated and that prosecutors made "false and slanderous statements" to the press and others.

The suit filed in U.S. District Court Tuesday seeks $75,000 in actual damages and unspecified punitive damages.

It names 21 individuals and seven governmental entities, including Davis County Attorney Mel Wilson, past and current Utah Attorneys General Jan Graham and Mark Shurtleff, U.S. Attorney for Utah Paul Warner, the Layton Police Department and the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing.

The Davis County Attorney's Office and Utah Attorney General's Office were unaware of the lawsuit and declined comment on the allegations.

Acting as his own attorney, Weitzel alleges that prosecutors pursued murder charges against him despite "full knowledge" that he was not guilty of the crimes.

"Defendants were or should have been aware of plaintiff's innocence, but persisted in pressing the charges of murder," the lawsuit states.

Weitzel was tried twice on allegations that he killed five elderly patients during a 16-day period by overdosing them with morphine after weakening them with psychotropic drugs. He said he was merely providing comfort care for terminal patients, who under his care for psychiatric problems.

He was convicted of manslaughter and negligent homicide in the first trial, but a judge ordered the convictions thrown out because prosecutors failed to tell the defense about an expert on end-of-life care who felt Weitzel's patient care was merely shabby, not criminal. Weitzel was acquitted by the second jury to hear the case.

Weitzel was sentenced to one year in federal prison after pleading guilty to two of 22 counts of prescription drug fraud. Prosecutors said he prescribed morphine and other pain killers for patients and diverted some of it for his own use.

He got out of prison in April 2003.

His Utah medical license was suspended.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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