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News (Media Awareness Project) - US CO: Medical-Marijuana Case Against Aurora Doctor Dismissed
Title:US CO: Medical-Marijuana Case Against Aurora Doctor Dismissed
Published On:2011-12-14
Source:Denver Post (CO)
Fetched On:2011-12-15 06:01:00
MEDICAL-MARIJUANA CASE AGAINST AURORA DOCTOR DISMISSED

Medical-marijuana case against Aurora doctor dismissed For the second
time this year, a judge has tossed out a criminal case against a
doctor accused of writing bad medical-marijuana recommendations to
undercover police officers.

Arapahoe County District Judge Carlos Samour dismissed the case
against Dr. Manuel Aquino-Villaman following a hearing Friday. Samour
said Aquino-Villaman's actions were lawful under the Colorado
Constitution, according to a court summary of the hearing. He also
said the charges should be dropped because officials failed to
preserve key evidence. Aquino-Villaman had been charged with felony
conspiracy to distribute marijuana, in addition to forgery and attempt
to influence a public servant.

It is rare for a judge to dismiss charges before trial, but this is
the second time it has happened for a medical-marijuana doctor this
year in Arapahoe County. In May, a different judge dismissed the case
against Dr. Toribio Robert Mestas, also saying that the doctor's
actions were protected by the Colorado constitution.

The Arapahoe County district attorney's office declined to comment on
the most recent dismissal, saying it has not yet decided whether to
appeal.

Attorney Lauren Davis, who represented Aquino-Villaman, said both
cases show a hostility toward medical marijuana by prosecutors in the
18th Judicial District, which includes Arapahoe County.

"Their bias against medical marijuana in Arapahoe and Douglas counties
is an affront to the constitutional rights of patients and
recommending physicians," Davis said.

Although the doctors - two of more than 1,000 physicians who have
recommended medical marijuana in Colorado - are no longer facing
criminal charges, neither is currently practicing medicine.

In March, Aquino-Villaman voluntarily surrendered his license in the
midst of a state Medical Board investigation into a marijuana
recommendation he wrote for a pregnant woman. Aquino-Villaman denied
wrongdoing and said the woman never disclosed her pregnancy. But his
attorney said Aquino-Villaman, now 71, could not afford to continue
fighting for his license.

Last month, Mestas agreed to temporarily stop practicing while he is
the subject of a Medical Board investigation. A public document about
the investigation says only that a Medical Board inquiry panel "had
significant concerns that (Mestas) provided substandard care to
multiple patients."

In both Aquino-Villaman's and Mestas's criminal cases, undercover
police officers posed as patients who complained of injuries or other
aches in attempting to obtain a medical-marijuana recommendation.
After brief exams, the doctors provided the recommendations.

Prosecutors argued that the exams were substandard and that the
officers never complained of "severe pain" - the condition for which
they were recommended marijuana. But the judges ruled the doctors'
diagnoses were reasonable based on the officers' statements.

"The presumption is that doctors are entitled to rely on what patients
tell them in the course of an examination," Davis said. "It's not the
doctor's job to play policeman."
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