Indiana, PA - Indiana County

Mir to stand trial after changing plea

by SAM KUSIC skusic@indianagazette.net on April 02, 2013 11:00 AM

An Indiana doctor accused of trading prescriptions for sex has been allowed to withdraw his guilty plea and will head to trial early this summer.

Dr. Tahir Usman Mir in October had admitted to five counts arising from charges that he was selling prescriptions for painkillers to addicts at his former Indiana Walk-In Clinic along South Fifth Street in Indiana.

In agreeing to plead guilty to counts of Medicaid fraud, prescribing a controlled substance in bad faith, and conspiracy, Mir averted a trial at the last minute — jury selection was to have begun on the day he accepted a plea agreement with prosecutors.

Mir, 62, could have faced up to 67 years in prison.

Sentencing in the case had been scheduled for Feb. 22. But with one week remaining before he was to have learned his punishment, Mir asked to withdraw the plea, saying he didn’t fully understand what he was agreeing to at the time. Mir also asserted his innocence.

President Judge William Martin converted his sentencing hearing to a motions hearing and took arguments as to why Mir should or should not be allowed to withdraw the plea at that late stage.

The state attorney general’s office, which is prosecuting the case, argued that Mir should be held to his plea. Allowing him to withdraw it, prosecutors said, would harm their ability to make their case because certain witnesses who were to have testified the first time around might not be available for a second go-around.

Among those witnesses were the lead investigator, who is on medical leave, and one of the women who Mir is said to have provided prescriptions to.

That matter aside, Mir’s change of heart was not genuine and was simply a tactic to stall for time, Pennsylvania Senior Deputy Attorney General Mark Serge told Martin during the hearing.

“He’s playing fast and loose with the guilty-plea process,” he said.

But in a ruling handed down March 22, Martin found that under state law, an assertion of innocence prior to sentencing is, in and of itself, reason enough to allow a guilty plea to be withdrawn. And he disagreed that the prosecution’s ability to present its case would be jeopardized a second time around.

Martin said the lead investigator will have returned to work by the time the new trial begins in June. Also, he said the woman is incarcerated at the Indiana County Jail and therefore is readily available.

“To allow the defendant to withdraw his plea would simply put the commonwealth and the defendant in the same position they were prior to the plea. This does not constitute prejudice,” Martin wrote.

“While witnesses, technicians and equipment were brought to the court for trial and then released following the entry of the plea, it is not prejudice unless there exists some circumstance which causes a witness to now be unavailable or other evidence unavailable to the commonwealth. There is no such claim here,” he wrote.

Mir had been free on bond, but is now under house arrest as he awaits trial.

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