BY JOSH GORE
Following a hearing, a federal judge last month refused to dismiss drug charges against a former Key Largo doctor accused of improperly prescribing oxycodone that led to the death of two patients.
Dr. Joseph Castronuovo, 72, of Ocean Reef, is fighting a federal indictment that could leave him imprisoned for the rest of his life.
He is one of 32 people charged last August with racketeering and money-laundering conspiracy, and illegally distributing prescription drugs for a sham business called Executive Pain.
Thomas Sclafani, Castronuovo's attorney, said in August that after his client refused to plead guilty, prosecutors spent months trying to pin other charges on him.
Pleading to those initial charges would have resulted in little or no jail time, Sclafani said.
The subsequent investigation led to additional charges that he inadvertently killed patients Tommy Wayne Harris and Michael Grant.
Sclafani filed a motion arguing his client's constitutional rights were violated when he refused to plead guilty to the initial indictment.
"In our adversarial system of justice, the prosecutor has nearly limitless discretion in deciding whom to prosecute and what charges to bring," Judge William Matthewman wrote in his Dec. 14 order.
Matthewman denied the motion for Castronuovo as well as for his co-defendant, Dr. Cynthia Cadet.
The judge wrote that the prosecutor's motive for the additional charges was irrelevant.
Castronuovo ordered and received 388,600 dosages of oxycodone from various pharmaceutical wholesalers between Feb. 26, 2009, and March 3, 2010, according to the documents filed in the federal courthouse.
The Key Largo resident is also charged with providing oxycodone to patients under the age of 21, which carries up to 40 years in prison upon conviction.
"Agents spent approximately five months combing through 1,500 of Dr. Castronuovo's patient charts and the deaths reported by the Social Security Administration for the exclusive purpose of discovering deaths that could be attributable to the defendant," Sclafani said in a Dec. 27 objection.
In was in the objection that Sclafani contended prosecutors wrongly charged his client because he refused to plead guilty.
It is unknown how long Matthewman will take to review it.
Castronuovo, a specialist in internal and nuclear medicine, graduated from Georgetown University School of Medicine in 1964.
The matter is expected to go to trial later this year.