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In SDNY Photographer Sues CBS Which Said It Was Publicity Handout Dirty Hands Mocked As Frivolous

By Matthew Russell Lee

SDNY COURTHOUSE, February 22 – From images of pain to images for sale. In the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on February 22, a child pornography sentencing was quickly followed by oral argument on a photographer suing CBS for using his images without credit or payment. The case is Sands vs CBS, and network's claim is that it though the photos were publicity hand outs. The lawyer for photograph Steve Sands called this frivolous, pointing out the watermark on the photographs and mocking CBS' invocation of the dirty hands defense. Reference was made to Iron Fist and "barging onto a set." Whatever the outcome, the parties are doing OK unlike the victims in the day's earlier case: a man in his fifties from Mexico, an American citizen, pled guilty to commissioning child pornography of two girls in the Dominican Republic, ages 5 and 7, through their mother who is now in jail in the DR. On February 22 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York defendant Nunez Torres was sentences to six years in prison, with five years of supervised release and a lifetime of sex offender registry to follow. SDNY Judge Richard J. Sullivan marveled aloud how Nunez Torres, a worker at a West Side Market until its closed in November 2017, had preyed on these girls. His lawyer, whom Inner City Press previously covered when she represented UN bribery case cooperating witness Cheikh Gadio, emphasized that the mother had sold images to others, that it wasn't the case that Nunez Torres had put the girls in an orphanage, at least not by himself. She argued for five years, the mandatory minimum. But Sullivan, a former prosecutor, said he was tempted to go above the sentencing guidelines and wondered if he will be judges for only imposing six years. Three hours after the sentencing, the U.S. Attorney had still not reduced it to a press release. It is, as the prosecutor said, disturbing. Inner City Press was present for the hour and a hour sentencing, apparently the only media there. An oral argument on Harvey Weinstein is of import; the destruction of two prepubescent girls in the Dominican Republic apparently less so. This is the SDNY: it is rare for a defendant to take the witness stand, but it happened on February 19, the day before summations, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Ernesto Lopez MD was a long time internist who made a lucrative switch to pain management such that, according to the prosecution, he filed an amendment tax return for 2015 with $750,000 in income. That also happened to be the amount of cash found in shoeboxes in his house, along with fentanyl patches, in a November 2017 raid. Now he has been found guilty by the jury - while his codefendant Audra Baker, whose lawyer adopted a different style than Lopez' including getting repeatedly warned and admonished during his summation, was acquitted. There's a lesson in there somewhere. Inner City Press which covered the trial spent time, too, in the hallway where Lopez was pacing, but ultimately learned of the verdict through this press release: "Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced the conviction yesterday of ERNESTO LOPEZ, a New York-licensed medical doctor who wrote thousands of medically unnecessary prescriptions for oxycodone and fentanyl over an approximately three-year period, following an eight-day trial before the Honorable Denise L. Cote.  LOPEZ was remanded into custody following his conviction.  Audra Baker, a medical assistant who worked in one of LOPEZ’s medical offices, and who was tried with LOPEZ, was acquitted of all charges against her." We aim to have more on this. On February 20 the prosecution's summation hammered at Lopez as a drug dealer, emphasizing how he told a women to crush up oxy and put it in her urine so that, when tested, it would appear she was using and not "diverting" the opioid. They depicted Lopez prescribing the breakout cancer pain drug SubSys to people who never had cancer, to make more money through a speakers' program. MRIs were forged on Microsoft Word to justify more pain drugs, forgeries depicting spinal injuries so severe that if true, patient couldn't have walked. He didn't care, the prosecution said. Will the jury? Midday on February 20, after a hearing on Harvey Weinstein at the other end of the courthouse's 18th floor, the jury was out to lunch. Inner City Press will continue to cover the case. Here's from the prosecutors' old press release: "From 2015 until October 2017, LOPEZ operated medical clinics located in Manhattan,New York; Jackson Heights, New York; and Franklin Square, New York, where LOPEZ wrote thousands of prescriptions for large quantities of oxycodone and fentanyl patches in exchange forcash payments. LOPEZ typically charged $200 to $300 in cash for “patient visits,” where LOPEZ performed no meaningful physical examination of patients. Instead, a typical “patient visit” consisted primarily of recording a patient’s vital signs and sometimes involved the brief movement of a patient’s limbs. LOPEZ then prescribed large quantities of oxycodone, most frequently 120 30-milligram tablets, and fentanyl patches. Between January 2015 and the present, LOPEZ wrotemore than 8,000 oxycodone prescriptions, resulting in an estimated $2 million in fees to LOPEZ." That's real money. The previous business day on February 15,when Gustavo Salvador pled guilty to selling oxycodone in The Bronx before SDNY Judge Paul A. Engelmayer, his two lawyers tried to argue for a suspended remand based on the cold in the MDC Brooklyn. Judge Engelmayer turned them down saying he had personal knowledge that the heat was back on; not surprising. Surprising, though, was that a Bronx oxy dealer was represented by the white shoe Goodwin Proctor law firm. Was it pro bono? Their representation goes back at least until Thanksgiving, before the MDC Brooklyn conditions became public. In the audience, a young child then a baby cried. The volume of oxy pills was in the thousands, according to the indictment. The sentencing guidelines run from 57 to 71 months. Judge Engelmayer said he said something else on his schedule coming up, should the sentencing be rescheduled? It went forward. Goodwin Proctor.


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