Last night, the U.S. Attorneys Office released an apparently damning indictment aimed at Dr. Joel Miller, a physician in Craig who's charged with prescribing powerful medications, including oxycodone and more, to patients who didn't need it for medical reasons, resulting in two deaths. Most professionals in positions like this zip their lips, but not Miller. Before the feds fitted him with cuffs, he went to a local TV station to proclaim his innocence and argue that he's the victim of a witch hunt. Photos, video and details below. The indictment, seen here in its entirety, lays out the claims against Miller like so:
JOEL E. MILLER prescribed controlled substances to patients without determining a sufficient medical necessity for the prescription of controlled substances....
...prescribed pharmaceuticals to patients for whom the prescription was not intended, and directed the persons to whom he prescribed the pharmaceuticals to give the prescription to third parties....
...prescribed controlled substances in quantities and dosages that would cause patients to abuse, misuse, and become addicted to the controlled substances....
...prescribed controlled substances to patients knowing that his patients were addicted to the controlled substances, were misusing the controlled substances, or "doctor-shopping," and were requesting additional quantities of controlled substances to support the patients' drug habits....
...prescribed controlled substances to patients knowing that his prescribing endangered his patients' lives, and if taken as directed, his prescriptions would be expected to result in accidental overdoses....
...prescribed controlled substances to patients in such strengths and quantities that his prescribing became a contributing factor in the patients' overdose deaths.
The specifics of this last claim are spelled out later in the indictment. Count 24 states that Miller "did knowingly and intentionally dispense and distribute, and cause to be dispensed and distributed, a controlled substance to patient S.V., and that this offense involved a quantity of fentanyl, a Schedule II controlled substance, hydrocodone, a Schedule III controlled substance, and alprazolam and clonazepam, Schedule IV controlled substances, and death resulted."
The 34th count (out of 35) is similar. It maintains that Miller "did knowingly and intentionally dispense and distribute, and cause to be dispensed and distributed, a controlled substance to patient P.B., and that this offense involved a quantity of hydrocodone, a Schedule III controlled substance, and diazepam, a Schedule IV controlled substance, and death resulted."
These charges represent the height of seriousness. Conviction under the most serious counts result in a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. But rather than silently fight the accusations, Miller went to 9News and denied that he fed the addictions of vulnerable people as part of a cynical pain-mill operation.
"The question, 'Did any of my patients die because of the medication I gave them,' and the answer is, 'No,'" Miller told the station in an interview recorded several weeks ago. He called the investigation a witch hunt and maintained that "I'm David and the Department of Justice is Goliath."
The outlet acknowledges that Miller had previously gotten in trouble in 2009 for prescription-related issues, but managed to keep his license to practice medicine -- and he's clearly got fans among his clients. According to 9News, more than a dozen of his patients contacted the station to sing his praises and offer him support.
He'll need it. He's due at U.S. District Court in Grand Junction at 4 p.m. today. During the hearing, the magistrate judge will determine if Miller is to be held without bond. In addition, the doctor is set for arraignment, at which time he's expected to plead not guilty.
Here's the 9News report, followed by the indictment.
More from our Colorado Crimes archive circa November 2011: "Dr. Louis Hampers, accused of stalking Deborah Sherman: No extra house arrest freedoms."
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.