An Indian-born doctor who was punished after 10 of his patients fatally overdosed on drugs he prescribed sought revenge by bombing the chairman of the state medical board, leaving him severely burned and without an eye, a federal prosecutor said Wednesday in announcing new charges in the case.
A grand jury indicted Dr. Randeep Mann on three charges in connection with the February 2009 attack on Dr. Trent Pierce outside of Pierce's home in West Memphis. The most serious charge — using a weapon of mass destruction against a person or property — could land Mann in prison for life if he's convicted.
"The theory of the United States' case is that the motivation was retaliatory against Dr. Pierce and his service on the board, and for the board's actions in connection with Dr. Mann's professional licensing matters," U.S. Attorney Jane Duke said.
Mann's attorney, Blake Hendrix, declined to comment Wednesday about the charges, which also include using an explosive to destroy Pierce's SUV and possession of the anesthetic chloroform, which prosecutors said was found in Mann's cell at the Pulaski County Jail.
Mann's wife, Sangeeta Mann, is charged with obstructing the investigation, concealing signed, blank checks, and making false statements to a grand jury. If convicted of obstruction, she could face up to 20 years in prison.
Family and friends of Pierce said the bomb was planted in a tire placed behind Pierce's vehicle in his driveway, and that it detonated when he reached down to move the tire. ATF agents have said the bomb was homemade, not manufactured military explosives or dynamite.
Calls seeking comment at Pierce's home and office rang unanswered Wednesday. Prosecutors said he would not comment on the new charges.
Mann, a federally licensed gun dealer, already faced charges of obstruction of justice and possessing unregistered weapons after more than $1 million worth of weapons were found during a search of his home and surrounding area after the bombing. He has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to go to trial March 15.
Federal agents have said guns ranging from M-16s to a tripod-mounted .50-caliber sniper weapon were found lying on the floor, in closets and in safes during the search. A majority of the firearms were legally registered to Mann.
Prosecutors also claimed in earlier court hearings that Mann's father was an international arms dealer, but defense attorneys dismissed the allegation as unfounded and the Indian national has not faced criminal charges.
Duke said Mann, who is now in federal custody, will likely be arraigned on the new charges within the next two weeks.
Stripped of right to prescribe narcotics
The state medical board stripped Mann of his right to prescribe narcotics twice, in 2003 for a year and again in 2006.
In its 2006 investigation, the board found that Mann prescribed excessive amounts — 15 to 26 bottles per month — of the pain reliever butorphanol for one patient. Along with the 10 patients who died, several survived overdoses, including one who suffered brain injury.
During the 2006 medical board hearing, Mann testified that in some cases, he didn't know patients had overdosed — and continued to prescribe narcotic pain relievers — because he hadn't received records from a hospital's emergency room that would have reflected the overdoses.
In other cases, he said, patients overdosed on medications prescribed by other doctors, or cases were mischaracterized by the hospital as overdoses.
In 2007, Mann appeared before the medical board, asking it to reinstate his U.S. Drug Enforcement permit to prescribe narcotics. His request was denied, and Pierce told him he shouldn't try again for "any foreseeable time," according to news accounts at the time.
Federal judges have thrown out two lawsuits filed against the board by Mann. In 2008, Mann claimed the board discriminated against him because of his race and religion. Mann, a naturalized U.S. citizen from India, said he is Hindu.
"It is the permanent, well-settled and widespread practice of the board to investigate and pursue disciplinary actions against licensees in such a manner that it has the effect of denying non-Caucasian, non-Christian and foreign-born licensees the equal protection of the law," the lawsuit alleged.
A federal judge dismissed that suit three months before the attack on Pierce.