SALT LAKE CITY — For the sixth time, a former Northern Utah nurse blamed for a 2015 hepatitis C outbreak had her federal jury trial pushed back to a later date.
This time, however, a judge ruled to push back the trial dates partly to allow for plea negotiations, according to recent court filings.
Elet Neilson, a 52-year-old Layton resident, was charged in August 2017 with 16 federal felonies consisting of eight counts of attempting to tamper with a consumer product and eight counts of fraudulently obtaining a controlled substance.
In an order filed Monday, U.S. District Court for the District of Utah Senior Judge Dee Benson ruled that the trial against Neilson could, once more, be moved to a later date for a handful of reasons.
Neilson’s trial was scheduled to begin in May, and the trial is now slated to begin in September.
Benson indicated in the order that Neilson’s attorneys needed more time to review genetic sequencing data from the Center for Disease Control, which the government has not yet provided to the defense, according to the order.
Benson also wrote that both sides of the case “need more time to complete plea negotiations,” according to the court filing. If negotiations broke down, Benson wrote, prosecutors and defense attorneys will need time to file motions, subpoena witnesses and perform otherwise necessary actions to prepare for a trial.
Neilson is accused of spreading hepatitis C in McKay-Dee and Davis hospitals in 2015, causing the facilities to notify 7,200 former patients of possible exposure to the disease. More than 3,700 people came forward for blood tests, and the Utah Department of Health said 16 positive cases of hepatitis C 2b were identified.
Monday’s order is the sixth time Neilson has successfully had her trial dates rescheduled to a later date.
Though she has successfully evaded going to trial in her case, Neilson’s actions landed her back in a federal courtroom in November.
Neilson was ordered to appear in Salt Lake City’s federal court after she was accused of driving under in the influence after a traffic stop in Layton on Nov. 7, according to charging documents. She was indicted two days later, and the charge constituted a violation of a pretrial release conditions.
On Nov. 15, Neilson appeared in front of Chief Magistrate Judge Paul M. Warner, where he ordered that Neilson refrain from using alcohol, along with ordering that she not contact her step-daughter. Documents did not supply context as to why Neilson was ordered not to be in contact with her step-daughter.
Warner ordered that Neilson be tested for alcohol twice a day using a sobrietor, a remote alcohol testing mechanism. She must also pay for the court-ordered service, according to court documents.
Neilson was cited for allegedly driving drunk after Layton Police received a complaint saying a driver of a black Hyundai Elantra was unaware they were driving on a flat tire. Officers saw the vehicle going west on Layton Parkway taking up both westbound lanes of traffic and riding the dotted white line, according to charging documents.
Police pulled over the vehicle and made contact with the driver, who police believe to be Neilson. The officer found the driver had “bloodshot glossy eyes” and “sluggish movements,” charging documents say. The officer also observed a smell of alcohol coming from the driver’s breath and took a breath test that indicated the presence of alcohol.
Officers conducted a field sobriety test, to which Neilson allegedly showed “extreme impairment,” according to the affidavit. A blood draw was taken after Neilson was arrested.
Neilson pleaded not guilty to the DUI charges during a Jan. 8 arraignment hearing. Her next court appearance for the DUI case is scheduled for April 2 in Layton’s 2nd District Court.
Neilson is also facing two civil lawsuits filed in state courts. Both suits allege that the Davis Hospital negligently failed to prevent nurse her from tampering with patient medication, reusing syringes and exposing patients to disease.