A Haysville doctor and nurse, appealing their convictions in a moneymaking conspiracy linked to 68 overdose deaths, ripped the government for reversing its position and claiming that the couple had conflict-free trial attorneys.
Physician Stephen Schneider and nurse Linda Schneider, who are married, were convicted in 2010 of conspiracy, unlawfully prescribing drugs, health care fraud and money laundering. The doctor was sentenced to 30 years, his wife to 33 years.
In filings with the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, new attorneys for the Haysville couple said Tuesday that the prosecuting attorney, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tanya Treadway, had taken dramatically different positions in the two courts.
When the case was in district court, Treadway twice tried to remove the Schneiders' trial attorneys from the case because of "conflicted interests" arising from their representation of Siobhan Reynolds. Reynolds was the president of the Pain Relief Network, who allegedly used the case to promote her agenda against government prosecution of physicians who prescribe painkillers.
But in federal appeals court, Treadway claimed that by the time of trial, the lawyers were not actively representing both clients and the conflict had no "adverse effect" on the case. She argued the Schneiders had received an "exceedingly fair trial, vigorously defended by separate counsel the defendants trusted and who believed in their respective client's innocence."
"More fundamentally, inconsistencies like those cataloged here reflect a deeper pathology, a certain disrespect for the courts, a contempt for the adversary, and an indifference to the norms and conventions that define appellate practice," the defense argued on appeal. "It is all the more notable that the offender is the United States. No party, but especially not one charged with the duty to do justice, can claim 'X' in the district court and 'not X' in the court of appeals. That is not doing justice but debasing it."
Among the issues in their appeal is whether the Schneiders understood the dangers posed when they twice waived their constitutional right to conflict-free legal representation.
The U.S. attorney's office said Wednesday it was reviewing the latest filings and will file its responses with the court.
The Schneiders' new attorneys paint Reynolds as a zealot who believed the war on drugs has transformed America into a police state in which the federal government lets patients live and die in unnecessary pain. Their appeal attorneys also contend Reynolds - who was under government surveillance at the time - was in a sexual relationship with Kevin Byers, the lead attorney representing Linda Schneider.
They argue that U.S. District Court Judge Monti Belot made a mistake by not confronting the Schneiders about that relationship during a hearing in which they waived their right to conflict-free representation.
Reynolds, Byers and his mother were killed in December when a small plane he was piloting crashed in Ohio.
"Kevin Byers and Siobhan Reynolds are not here to speak for themselves, but knowing them I can tell you that Kevin Byers had one allegiance - which was to Linda Schneider. Siobhan Reynolds wanted to see the Schneiders acquitted, and I personally believe they deserve a new trial," said Lawrence Williamson, the attorney who defended Stephen Schneider at trial.