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Doctors say firefighter facing drug charges never asked for prescriptions

Published May 13, 2014 10:44 pm

Courts • UFA assistant chief will still face trial, but judge doubtful of DA's case.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

There is a name for the kind of crimes for which Marlon Don Jones has been accused: The going from physician to physician, seeking prescriptions that a person may not really need.

They call it "doctor shopping."

Jones, a Unified Fire Authority assistant chief, has been criminally charged with 14 counts of doing just that.

But on Tuesday, four of the doctors who have treated Jones told a judge that he never appeared to be shopping for anything. He never even asked them for a prescription.

According to testimony at a preliminary hearing Tuesday, wherein prosecutors laid out their case against the embattled fire official, Jones has suffered chronic pain for years. He's had gout, knee surgery, a torn rotator cuff, back pain, difficulties sleeping.

But not once did he ask any of his doctors to write him a prescription for painkillers, they testified.

"It is my opinion today that at no time was [Jones] dependant on medications nor was he drug seeking," testified Craig Coleby, a doctor who specializes in orthopedic medicine. "The opioids [Jones was taking] had been determined by his other physicians to be medically necessary."

Judge Robert Faust ordered Jones to stand trial on all 14 third-degree felony counts of falsely obtaining prescription drugs, but expressed reservations about the state's case.

"I am binding this case over due to the extremely low threshold that the law requires the state to prove [at a preliminary hearing], in spite of much of the evidence and much of the testimony," Faust said.

Defense attorney Tyler Ayres said the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office is pursuing the case as an act of politics, not justice.

"He's being persecuted by the DA's office, who's trying to prove that no one is above the law at the expense of people like Mr. Jones," Ayres told The Tribune. "There's no way they can prove these crimes beyond a reasonable doubt."

According to charges, fire officials called Cottonwood Heights police to investigate irregularities and discrepancies concerning UFA's supply of controlled substances — specifically some morphine that was taken and replaced with a saline solution.

Detective James Woods began checking state prescription records for fire employees who had been prescribed opiate drugs and came across Jones.

Jones was found to have a "large number" of prescriptions for several highly addictive controlled substances from various pharmacies and doctors, charging documents state.

But on Tuesday, his doctors testified his prescriptions for hydrocodone and carisoprodol, which are pain killers, and zolpidem, a sleep aid, were all above board.

His primary care physician and three specialists testified that they had been treating his symptoms as they knew how — the issue, the doctors said, was they were unaware of each other's treatment plans and the medications Jones had been prescribed until law enforcement began asking questions.

Two doctors said the amount of medicine Jones had been taking would not have raised any red flags had they seen it in his records.

Investigators told them it was up to Jones to disclose the information and that it may have been criminal of him not to.

But, Ayres said, for prosecutors to charge him with a felony — or several — they have to prove he willfully and purposefully withheld that information from his medical providers.

That's not the case, he said.

"There has been no testimony regarding intent," Ayres said in closing arguments. "There has been ample testimony that shows he was not drug-seeking at any time."

Jones has been on paid administrative leave since he was charged last year. Ayres said that likely won't change until the case is resolved.

No plea negotiations are in the works, though Ayres said the state had approached them with an offer of a reduced sentence.

"At this point, I don't believe my client will be willing to accept anything unless that offer came with no allegation of wrongdoing," Ayres told The Tribune. "Mr. Jones would just love for this to be over."

As Jones sat in court Tuesday, listening to the proceedings, more than 30 members of the Unified Fire Authority sat at his back, filling the courtroom gallery.


Twitter: marissa_jae




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