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04-11-03: Santanello's attorneys try to get case dropped
The Daily Standard
    Three attorneys argued before a judge in the Mercer County Commons Pleas courtroom Thursday as to why the indictments against Celina physician Dr. Thomas Santanello should be dropped.
    Santanello, 50, of Southmoor Shores, St. Marys, pleaded not guilty in September 2002 to 214 felony charges lodged against him by a Mercer County grand jury.
    The charges include 210 violations of drug laws, including drug trafficking and illegal prescription processing offenses, and four theft offenses, which include one count of Ohio Bureau of Worker's Compensation fraud, one count of theft by deception and two counts of falsification.
    One by one, Santanello's attorneys, Mark Kaiser, David Koerner and Ralph Buss of Painesville, argued before the judge as to why their motions, ranging from dismissal of the indictments to disclosure of grand jury proceedings, should be allowed. The oral pres-entations were heard by visiting Judge Jeffrey M. Welbaum of the Miami County Common Pleas Court, Troy, because Mercer County Judge Jeffrey Ingraham recused himself from the case due to having represented Santanello in a legal matter years ago.
    Mercer County Assistant Prosecutor Matt Fox and Prosecuting Attorney Andy Hinders, representing the state's case against the doctor, countered.
    The affidavits that Celina Municipal Court Judge James Scheer relied on for the April 2001 search warrant of Santanello's office at 1107 N. Main St. are defective, Kaiser claimed in a lengthy statement before the judge.
    The four affidavits for search warrant were from the Ohio Bureau of Worker's Compensation, Grand Lake Drug Task Force, Ohio State Board of Pharmacy and State Medical Board of Ohio.
    "They consist of uncorroborated hearsay, false statements made by law enforcement and failure to set forth facts sufficient for probable cause," reads the motion by Santanello's attorneys.
    The affidavits allege Santanello allowed office employees to perform medical procedures they were not trained or licensed for, Santanello filed false insurance claims with the Worker's Compensation Bureau and overprescribed narcotic substances to patients.
    Kaiser focused on the affidavit filed by John DeLor, special agent with the Worker's Compensation Bureau.
    "In the affidavit, DeLor specifically mentions seven of Dr. Santanello's patients. I have interviewed all of them but Jacy Hart, who I haven't been able to locate, and every one of them said DeLor lied in the affidavit. They say they did receive the treatments that DeLor is saying they never received and that Worker's Compensation was billed for," Kaiser said.
    Specifically mentioned by Kaiser were patients James Gilbert, Ilse Warner, Sylvia Flynn, Jack Smith, Carla Daniels and Nancy Glynn.
    "We feel their direct contradictions is argument for an evidentiary hearing. We've been told they used tape recordings and why weren't they produced. We plan to subpoena the tape recordings in an evidentiary hearing," Kaiser said.
    Kaiser also spoke of Santanello's employee, registered nurse Lynn Stucke.
    In DeLor's affidavit, former employees of Santanello claim they witnessed Stucke perform carpal tunnel surgery, adjustments, exams and sign prescriptions at the direction of Santanello.
    "When she (Stucke) was interviewed, she said she was trying to leave the office but they (investigators) wouldn't let her leave. They forced her to talk to them. This is highly unusual, how can it be construed as legitimate when she couldn't leave," Kaiser said.
    DeLor's affidavit was not the only document that led to the search warrant, Fox countered.
    "It's hard to imagine any basis for dismissal of the charges against Dr. Santanello," Fox said. "We've got statements from Deputy Barry Niekamp with the Grand Lake Task Force, the State Medical Board and Pharmacy Board. They overwhelmingly show probable cause (for the search warrant).
    "They must show preponderance of evidence for dismissal and the only thing they have established is errors on portions of the affidavit. Inconsistent statements is not enough."
    In another motion, Santanello's attorneys asked for dismissal of the indictments against the doctor.
    "The indictment appears to have been obtained for improper political motives and without probable cause to support the charges," the court document reads.
    In yet another motion filed by Santanello's attorneys, the defense maintains disclosure of the grand jury proceedings is necessary to show grounds for the motion to dismiss the indictment.
    The state responded, "The defendant seeks to usurp the secrecy of the grand jury by speculating the state could not have indicted such a complicated case in two business days (a special grand jury met for two days before handing down the indictments). Speculation does not establish a particularized need for a review of grand jury proceedings."
    "The secrecy of the grand jury is at stake here," Fox said.
    Santanello's attorneys also told the judge the State Medical Board has investigated Santanello and has found no basis to suspend his medical license.
    Santanello is a doctor of osteopathic medicine, specializing in pain management, sports medicine, neurological and spinal disorders. He is licensed to practice medicine in Ohio until 2004, but has not practiced since closure of his Celina office in early 2001.
    The  defendant's motion for change of venue that also has been filed was not addressed at Thursday's hearing.
    Judge Welbaum will announce his decision on the motions at a later date.


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