Steroids defendant pleads not guilty; prosecutors seek removal of defense lawyers

MOBILE, Ala. — An alternative medicine practitioner pleaded not guilty last week to charges that he illegally sold anabolic steroids, while prosecutors sought to have his lawyers removed from the case.

It was Jesse S. Haggard’s first appearance in Mobile since returning to the United States earlier this year. He was one of a dozen people named in a 198-count indictment last year as part of a long-running probe by the U.S. Attorney’s office into the practices of Applied Pharmacy Services in Mobile.

Former U.S. Attorney David York has been accused of conflict of interest in steroids case.Haggard faces trial in January. 

The U.S. Attorney’s Office cried foul last week over Haggard’s choice of attorneys — David York, who formerly served as U.S. attorney in Mobile. 

Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Baer filed a motion seeking to remove York and another lawyer, Christ Coumanis. 

Baer wrote that York has a conflict of interest since he was involved in the investigation that led to the prosecution and personally approved the task force that conducted the probe. 

Coumanis, meanwhile, was a member of the law firm that represented a doctor who pleaded guilty to illegally prescribing steroids filled by the online pharmacy in Mobile. Baer wrote that prosecutors plan to call the doctor, Pamela Pyle, as a witness.

Coumanis declined to comment on the matter, and York could not be reached last week. Baer wrote that York told him he has no memory of his involvement in the investigation.

Baer stated that he accepts that York is acting in good faith.

“However, Mr. York’s good faith and lack of memory are irrelevant to the issue of whether he can continue the representation,” he wrote.

Haggard will remain jailed after Chief U.S. District Judge Ginny Granade affirmed the order of a federal magistrate judge in Orlando, where the defendant made his initial appearance. Haggard had been living in Costa Rica.

Coumanis had asked Granade overturn that decision. 

Assistant U.S. Attorney Donna Dobbins responded in writing that Haggard continued to advocate steroids on his blog and in a radio interview, and that he admitted fleeing the U.S. to avoid prosecution. “To release Haggard from custody now would be an invitation to disappear — never to be seen again,” she wrote. 

Coumanis said declined to detail his defense but said he is eager to “get to the heart of the matter and prove his innocence.”

Article By Brendan Kirby | 

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