By BETTY LAWRENCE
Attorneys for Celina physician Dr. Thomas Santanello have subpoenaed
records from various state and local medical and drug agencies
they say are necessary to defend the doctor against a mammoth
felony case against him.
But the local prosecution team and attorneys representing a
number of state agencies are against handing over the documents,
citing state confidentiality rules. They urged the court to
quash the subpoenas.
Visiting Judge Jeffrey M. Welbaum heard arguments on the issue
during a Friday hearing in Mercer County Common Pleas Court.
Present at the hearing were Santanello and his attorneys, Ralph
Buss, Mark Kaiser and Dave Koerner. Mercer County Prosecuting
Attorney Andy Hinders and Assistant Prosecutor Matt Fox are
representing the state in the gargantuan case against Santanello.
One year ago, Santanello, 51, of 153 Waterbury Court, Southmoor
Shores, was arrested at his St. Marys home by the Mercer County
Sheriff’s Office, after being served with two warrants
after he was indicted by a grand jury.
At his arraignment, he pled not guilty to 214 felony charges
lodged against him. He remains free on a $200,000 bond.
One of the indictments alleges 210 violations of drug laws,
including drug trafficking and illegal prescription processing
offenses while a second indictment alleges four theft offenses,
including one count of Ohio Bureau of Worker’s Compensation
fraud, one count of theft by deception and two counts of falsification.
The offenses range from felonies of first degree to felonies
of the third degree.
Rebecca Albers, senior assistant attorney general, was present
at Friday’s hearing on behalf of the State Medical Board
and State Pharmacy Board.
“Any information pertaining to criminal matters is confidential,”
Albers told the court regarding unspecified information on Santanello
held by the two agencies she represented in the hearing.
The Ohio Board of Nursing has a similar confidentiality statute,
said Holly Fischer, assistant attorney general.
“Information is confidential, (even) with respect to exculpatory
material. It can be disclosed only to law enforcement and the
board itself does not investigate. It has taken no action against
Santanello and can’t. The law is very clear, there is
no room to violate the statute,” Fisher said.
The Bureau of Worker’s Compensation and Bureau of Criminal
Investigation and Identification were represented by Keith Blosser,
also with the attorney general’s office.
“These investigations are sensitive in nature and could
compromise sensitive material,” Blosser warned about the
information being sought by the defense team.
Constitutional rights supersede the state’s confidentiality
statutes, argued Kaiser. He was particularly seeking witness
statements and police records.
Buss added that the records would prove favorable to his client,
citing the State Nursing Board’s records in particular.
“They have information on a person who may be part of
a plea agreement,” Buss said.
Lynn Stucke, who worked as a nurse in Santanello’s office
in Celina, was part of a plea agreement with the state prosecutors,
“We want to know what break they give her and how big
a break. We know there was a deal and we have the right to know,”
But Fox said no deal was made with Stucke, who is expected to
testify against her former employer.
Stucke voluntarily surrendered her license, Fisher told the
court, and it was permanently revoked.
The State Medical Board, in its investigation of Santanello,
alleged in an April, 2001, affidavit that Stucke administered
trigger point injections and spinal blocks and had performed
carpal tunnel surgeries. Those procedures are supposed to be
done by a doctor.
“We have evidence there was a deal,” Koerner countered
to the prosecutor’s statement of no deal.
The indictment charging Santanello with drug trafficking and
illegal processing of drugs lists 167 illegal processing of
drugs charges and 43 drug trafficking offenses.
“We’re trying to get a handle on the charges. It’s
our position that the bulk amount is a key issue,” Koerner
said in his argument before the court.
Most of the counts charge that Santanello knowingly sold or
offered to sell a controlled substance in an amount equal to
or exceeding the “bulk amount” which is not in accordance
with what the law allows.
“Our position (question) is, how do you figure drug trafficking
in excess of bulk amount?” Koerner said.
The judge also heard the defendant’s motions to compel
discovery and privilege issues.
“We feel we didn’t have all the discovery material.
They must provide all police and witness statements. There are
some we haven’t gotten” Koerner argued.
After listening to the arguments and counter arguments for a
time, Welbaum proposed the parties involved attempt to come
to an agreement.
“The question is, what can we do to resolve these matters,”
he said. He urged them to sit down and work out an agreement
on discovery and exculpatory information that both sides could
A decision is expected next week on the motions following the
negotiations between the attorneys for the prosecution, defense
and those from the various agencies and bureaus involved.
Welbaum is hearing the case after Mercer County Judge Jeffrey
Ingraham recused himself from the case due to having represented
Santanello in a legal matter years ago.
If convicted on all counts of both indictments, the maximum
prison term would be 631 years. The maximum potential fine for
all counts in both indictments is $1,292,500.
The Bureau of Worker’s compensation (BWC) also is seeking
restitution of over $100,000 alleged to have been illegally
received by Santanello for worker treatments.
Santanello, 51, is a doctor of osteopathic medicine, specializing
in pain management, sports medicine, neurological and spinal
disorders. He has not practiced since closure of his Celina
office at 1107 N. Main Street in early 2001.
In November, two days of court and a potential third and fourth
day have been set aside for motion hearings on suppression of
evidence in the case.