Pharmacist cleared of 43 counts

Tran may be tried again on 11 charges

Tran

GULFPORT

A jury deliberated more than 20 hours before finding pharmacist Nick Tran innocent on 43 charges in a prescription “pill mill” probe.

The jury reached an impasse on another 11 counts. U.S. District Judge Louis Guirola Jr. declared a mistrial on the 11 charges that deadlocked the jury.

“I’m feeling good,” the 42-year-old Tran said as he left the federal courthouse early Friday evening.

“I couldn’t have done it without my family, my attorneys or the jury,” Tran said. “I wouldn’t have wished this on my worst enemy.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Meynardie said he was disappointed with the outcome but will seek permission to re-try Tran on the remaining counts in June.

“The jury is a great leveler,” said defense lawyer David Morrison, quoting Atticus Finch from “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Jurors in the two-week trial deliberated more than 2 1/2 days.

Tran and three codefendants were accused of conspiring to sell prescriptions for narcotics in Biloxi without sufficient medical exams.

Only Tran refused to accepted a plea agreement in a 60-count indictment from a raid in May 2008. The Drug Enforcement Administration also accused the defendants of money-laundering and causing at least eight drug-related deaths. Prosecutors and DEA agents had called one of the doctors a drug dealer.

But no money laundering or death-related charges were filed.

The case focused on prescriptions for hydrocodone, promethazine cough syrup with codeine and alprazolam.

Meynardie said it was disappointing that the jury declined to find Tran guilty of conspiracy and said the jury found him not guilty on “the weakest counts,” which he said applied more to doctors charged in the case.

“That can happen when you let someone who is more culpable plead guilty,” Meynardie said.

Attorney Wendy Tynes, who assisted with Tran’s defense, shared congratulations with a large group of his family and friends outside the courthouse. Tran’s mother stood nearby and wiped tears from her eyes with a tissue.

Guirola invoked an instruction called “the Allen charge” Friday morning after the jury decided it had reached an impasse on most of the charges.

The charge, from a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, allows a judge to urge a deadlocked jury to reach a unanimous decision.

Defense lawyers refer to it as “the dynamite instruction.”

The charge advises that if the majority is in favor of conviction or acquittal, those who disagree should reconsider.

“It just doesn’t happen that frequently,” said Frank Trapp, a Jackson attorney with 37 years experience in criminal law.

“As defense attorneys view it, the fear would be that more jurors are leaning to conviction than acquittal and that would make you more nervous to have that charge given.”

No sentencing date has been set for two of Tran’s codefendants.

Dr. Thomas Trieu has pleaded guilty to one felony and two misdemeanors. Trieu’s wife, Dr. Victoria Van, pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor.

Richard Trieu pleaded to one felony and received a year’s probation and a $5,000 fine. He was the doctors’ office manager.

By ROBIN FITZGERALD – rfitzgerald@sunherald.com
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