We’ve all heard of the Federal Case. What does that actually mean? There is the proverbial kind. Like, when your spouse goes off on you because your clothes have been lying around the bedroom for a week now and you snap, “Don’t make a federal case out of it.”
Then there’s the kind where the federal government seeks a several hundred count indictment, seizes your assets so you can’t afford to pay a lawyer, drags your name through the mud and back again, and tries to put you in prison for the rest of your life. That’s the kind of federal case that really sticks in your craw. Kinda makes your reaction to the chastising for messiness (which, let’s face it, you probably deserved) seem a tad overstated.
I’m thinking back to when the feds first came into our life. Some of my husband, Cecil’s, patients came into his office, whispering and looking over their shoulders, telling him how agents had threatened them if they wouldn’t wear a wire and help set him up as a drug dealer. He’s just a doctor, mind you, but they were going for drug dealer. Then there was another patient, this one a postal worker, who came in to say they were going through Cecil’s mail at the post office. Then came the first raid – FBI, DEA, DOJ, and lots of their friends – all in bullet proof vests with guns on their hips. Then the second raid…more vests and guns and the whole battering ram thing, which we’ve already discussed. And, finally, the third. This time the guns were drawn, one actually to the head, and lots more lettered vests yelling things like ‘nobody leaves,’ as though people were going to just saunter out in the face of all that. My favorite part was when they brought out the cuffs and shackles and carted everyone off to jail.
To appreciate the full impact, you have to imagine yourself, as we did, to be just regular ‘ole people, living regular lives, raising a family. You know the type. You spend Saturdays running alongside the bicycle teaching your kids to ride. Then, late on Christmas Eve, you’re writing notes from Santa in disguised handwriting, and drinking milk and eating cookies that, truth be told, make you want to upchuck cuz you’re way past the cookie hour, but the kids left them out – so innocent in their belief – and you have to do it justice by forcing the cookies down.
We were the kind of family that had ‘have a heart’ traps to catch mice instead of the kind that snap their heads off. Cecil would pile out early in the morning, the newly captured critter sitting in the passenger seat, in search of just the right new home for the guy somewhere by the creek.
Cecil was the kind of doctor that would have carried a patient on his back over the mountain and through the woods to find something that would help ease the pain, even though his wife (that would be me) was following him, with just a hint of bitchiness in her voice, wondering why he was always putting his patients before her and the kids.
So, when the feds came knocking and accused him of doping people up, and killing people, and trading prescription drugs, you can imagine that we were a tad surprised. We knew they were going after ‘pill mill’ docs. We just didn’t know that the pill mill part was something fabricated to suit their agenda. We didn’t know they would go after a good guy and throw the weight and power of the federal government against him, expecting the world to accept their say-so that he was bad. To make their point, they jazzed it all up with things like racketeering and conspiracy and fraud. They threw in an obstruction of justice and, actually, so many counts it’s hard, now, to remember what all they were.
And, not to fast forward too much here, let me just say this insanity went on for five friggin’ years. I mean, all out, guns a blazin’, hand-to-hand combat. I’m sure they thought we would lie down to their power. It never crossed our minds. There were ulcers. Meltdowns became a way of life. I remember having a twitch for a while. Anxiety took over the nights when we were supposed to be sleeping. But, there was no giving up. The battle raged on.
The case was in the headlines every day. By the end, they had three hundred thousand pages of documentary evidence in their war room. The trial lasted eight weeks. The government put on more than a hundred witnesses and spent untold millions of dollars. It was an unseemly display of prosecutorial excess.
Now that's a federal case.
Now that's a federal case.
Come on back for part two of this post in a few days. Talk to you then.