Former DEA agent testifies in MacKay trial

Jul 22 2011 - 11:29pm

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MacKay
MacKay

SALT LAKE CITY -- A former DEA agent testified to a sting of Dr. Dewey MacKay taped in 2007 and played for the jury Friday as the first week closed of MacKay's possible five-week trial in federal court.

The 64-year-old Brigham City orthopedic surgeon is charged with 86 counts of drug distribution for allegedly dealing millions of pain pills for "no legitimate medical purpose," according to his grand jury indictment of August 2010.

Charging documents count more than 3.5 million narcotic pain pills prescribed from his small office in four years. The indictment alleges that MacKay distributed more than 1.9 million pills of hydrocodone and nearly 1.6 million pills of oxycodone between June 1, 2005, and Oct. 30, 2009 -- among the highest volumes prescribed in the state for those years.

Friday, Salt Lake City Police Officer Rochelle Bradley testified to her undercover visit to MacKay's office on Oct. 9, 2007, when she was an agent with a statewide DEA task force. She wore a wire at the time and took the stand to comment on the tape of the visit played for the jury.

She was escorted on the 2007 sting by a DEA confidential informant, a patient of MacKay's who reported his activities to the agency. Bradley and the informant are heard on the tape meeting together with MacKay in the examination room.

MacKay writes a prescription for the informant fairly quickly after little conversation. She then introduces MacKay to Bradley, who tells him she is a former patient of Dr. Warren Stack in Salt Lake City. Stack had been in the news for his conviction for illegally prescribing painkillers, but MacKay says nothing at the mention of his name.

On the tape, Bradley tells MacKay of the pills she sought that she "can't function without them."

MacKay is heard telling Bradley he likely could help her with some Lortab, but he would wait until she found a job before he would prescribe the much more expensive OxyContin. Her cover story had her moving from Salt Lake City to Logan.

On the stand, Bradley said it's not heard on the tape but MacKay was beginning to write her a prescription for the Lortab. But a nurse who overheard their conversation leaned in to the examination room to say MacKay was not seeing any of Stack's former patients, Bradley testified, and the prescription went unfinished.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Kennedy quizzed Bradley on MacKay's short visit she witnessed with the informant, asking, "Did you hear him ask her any questions as to why she was even there?"

"He asked her how she was doing," she answered.

Of her own visit, Kennedy asked, "At any point, did he ask a single question about your condition?"

"No, he did not," she answered.

Under questioning from MacKay's defense team, Bradley agreed the sting was among three undercover attempts by her, two by phone, at becoming a patient of MacKay's within a month, all unsuccessful.

In opening arguments Wednesday, MacKay's lead defense counsel, Peter Stirba, said defense witnesses would include Dr. Perry Fine from the University of Utah, a nationally recognized expert on the treatment of chronic pain.

Stirba said Fine would establish the subjective nature of pain treatment, which lacks any "recognized standard of what and how to prescribe" opioid painkillers. He said MacKay also would testify during the trial.

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