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Accused Oxy Nurse Freed in Mag Court Now Remains Masked During Closing Arguments

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon
BBC - Guardian UK - Honduras - The Source

SDNY COURTHOUSE, Sept 6 – Back on July 8, the US Attorney's Office for the SDNY announced that "Audrey Strauss, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York... announced today the unsealing of a criminal Complaint in Manhattan federal court charging PURIFICACION CRISTOBAL, a nurse practitioner who operated a medical clinic in the Bronx, New York, with illegally distributing large quantities of oxycodone.  CRISTOBAL was taken into custody this morning and is expected to be presented before Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn later today."  

  Inner City Press, which covers the SDNY, immediately called in to the CourtCall line since the Magistrates Court has been closed for months. But the case that was on was not on Cristobal / Oxy.

  First it was a Mr. Watson, no press release by SDNY, who wanted to be released on bond. Denied.  

   Then it was Mr. Scott, "in the courthouse," also detained.  

   Finally past 6:30 pm on the same line, oxy nurse Cristobal was presented. A bail package had been agreed to, and her relative was outside the courthouse to drive her home.   It may be the difference between violent crime and non violent crime.

   But Inner City Press asked, even then, why would the SDNY US Attorney's Office put out a press release about a defendant they were agreeing to free, while not putting out anything on two other defendants they managed to detain?

 On October 28, 2020 Purification Cristobal appeared before the assigned District Judge Katharine Polk Failla for a change of counsel. Peter E. Brill has discovered a conflict of interest, and said that "Dr. Cristobal has retained Julie Rendelman." That change of counsel was effectuated.

 On March 12, 2021, another change of counsel. The incoming counsel said his client is intelligent and needs a lot of attention; she complained that one attorney only met her in a park. He started talking fees and Judge Failla said, politely but firmly, that was an issue she would not get into.

Jump cut to August 23, 2022, and Cristobal is on trial before Judge Failla. Her lawyer now was telling the jurors not to hold it against her client that she speaks with an accent. That she took cash as payment is not strange, she said. Many people in the low income part of The Bronx where Cristobal operated don't have insurance, she added. And the witnesses against her are self-interested.

Judge Failla asked, Counsel, how many more do you have?

Counsel said two more minutes, then told the jurors, I'm being cut off, but --

Judge Failla said, I am not cutting you off, I only asked a question.

The jury was let go for the day.

On August 24 a shaky video in the clinic was shown, barely audible. The woman speaking ont the video was in the witness box, being asking about patients selling their pills just outside the clinic, and communication between Doctor Cristobal and Christian Ohaeri.

During the questioning, perhaps due to the layout or the glean of the COVID 19 speaking boxes, it appeared that most jurors were watching the AUSA, and not the witness.

On August 25 the witness, Destiny White, was cross examined. She was asked about her non prosecution agreement with the Government, absolving her for driving deliveries of marijuana and allowing her bank account to be used for fraud. She testified that she got drugs for her two sons from Cristobal. Afterward, after she was excused she was on the sidewalk in front of 40 Foley Square looking relieved. Inside, not so much.

From August 26: Cristobal is
wrote prescriptions for Oxocodone, Xanax and Adderall for patients she never examined, many of whom turned around and sold the drugs to other addicts.  

One such patient who re-sold drugs, Danilla LoCicero, testified on the afternoon of August 26, 2022 in the trial before U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Katharine Polk Failla. Inner City Press was present in Courtroom 318 for the direct, cross and re-direct examination.

  Ms. LoCicero began by saying she has worked for JP Morgan Chase for 17 years. She then said that all of the Oxycodone she was prescribed by "Doctor Cristobal" she gave to her common law husband Peter Maisonave to re-sell for cash.

  She said Maisonave was suffering some anxiety and depression due to being out of work and considering back surgury which he ultimately had.  The oxy he didn't sell, he crushed up and snorted. LoCicero asked to be sent to a pharmacy that provided the oxy in crushable form.

  Somehow, while still working for Chase Bank, LoCicero began working in Cristobal's clinic, resubmitted bills that had been rejected to insurance companies. Her pay was in drugs prescribed without any visit. 

 She was offered a deal in which she will not be prosecuted for possession of the drugs with intent to distribute, and insurance fraud, as long as she testifies truthfully against Cristobal.

The cross examination, while focusing on 2006 spine MRIs to argue the drugs may have been necessary, did not get into the insurance fraud or work at JP Morgan Chase.

When LoCicero left the witness stand and courtroom, a man who appeared to be her lawyer followed her out.

On August 29, there were spreadsheets showing Cristobal prescribing 171 days of drugs to Justin Campanella for a mere 115 days. There was talk of the request to charge, and a motion in limine.

On August 31, Cristobal's counsel wrote to Judge Failla about a dispute with the prosecutors about the appropriate scope of expert Dr. Gharibo's testimony, who testified on August 30 that NYS law requires a physical exam before oxycodone is prescribed. The defense says no, citing a CDC interpretation. They offer to address it with the Court going forward.

On September 6, the day the SDNY made COVID masks voluntary, the Assistant US Attorney began his closing argument to the jury, without a mask. Most jurors were maskless, too. The defendant, notably, was not.

The question, the prosecutor said, was whether when prescribing Oxy she had been operating as a medical practitioner. He said this should have required evaluating patients. The defendant watched closely, from behind her mask.

    This case is US v. Cristobal, 20-cr-463 (Failla).


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