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Jurors on Thursday night found a Brigham City orthopedic surgeon guilty on 40 counts of distributing painkillers to patients without a legitimate medical purpose, including two counts resulting in death.
Dewey C. MacKay said nothing to reporters as he slipped out a side door of the U.S. District Court and into a sports utility vehicle.
U.S. Attorney for Utah Carlie Christensen called it a "hugely important verdict" that sends an important message to the medical community" about over prescribing.
"It's wrong and it's dangerous," Christensen said. "This is probably one of America's greatest health problems. It affects a lot of families and homes and it plays out in emergency rooms every day."
A jury spent about 19 hours deliberating over weeks' of testimony and evidence before finding MacKay guilty on two counts of distribution of a controlled substance resulting in death, three counts of use of a communication facility (telephone) in a drug trafficking offense, and 35 counts of distribution of a controlled substance.
The jury found him not guilty on 44 other distribution counts.
MacKay, 64, was indicted a year ago on charges related to prescribing more than 1.9 million hydrocodone pills and nearly 1.6 million oxycodone pills between June 1, 2005, and Oct. 30, 2009. On the evening before the start of jury selection in MacKay's trial last month, prosecutors filed a motion to dismiss one-third of MacKay's charges, saying the case could be tried more effectively without the additional charges.
Prosecutors have argued that MacKay did not conduct physical exams or question patients to determine whether they were abusing or selling the drugs, despite cases where a patient's family member called to report prescription abuse.
MacKay was accused of pushing 80 to 120 patients through his office in an eight-hour workday, spending just minutes with each person.
"There are cases where it may present a fine line," Christensen said. "We do not believe this was one of them."
MacKay faces a minimum sentence of 20 years in prison when he is sentenced Oct. 23, prosecutors said.
MacKay's attorney, Peter Stirba, said little to reporters after the verdict was read.
Earlier Thursday, the defense filed an 11th-hour motion to have the case dismissed, claiming misconduct on the part of prosecutors.
In that motion Stirba said Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Kennedy lied about MacKay during closing arguments Wednesday when MacKay spoke about an alleged "tryst" the doctor had with a patient.
"Prosecutors made three statements to the jury which were complete and utter fabrications unsupported by the evidence," Stirba wrote in his motion.
Stirba's motion to dismiss stems from Kennedy's comments that MacKay knew one of his patients was so desperate for a drug fix that he pressured her into meeting him for massages at a local motel.
The U.S. Attorney's Office responded to the motion Thursday afternoon by defending the truthfulness of the prosecution's closing arguments and by saying the defense had mischaracterized a number of statements made in court.
According to Kennedy's statements in court, MacKay met patient Kerri Parker Dritlein, 32, of Hooper, at a Best Rest Inn in September 2006 and offered her a massage to help with her pain management.
"She felt dirty, she felt humiliated, but she did it because she needed the drugs," Kennedy said in court.
Stirba maintains Dritlein, a convicted felon, lied about the massages.
Judge Dee Benson did not rule Thursday on Stirba's motion to dismiss the indictment.