Crime & Courts

Former Schneider patient testifies

Tab woke up in the hospital and didn't remember how he got there.

He'd been in a car wreck, the doctors told him. Tab could feel the bruises from the steering wheel and dashboard.

It wasn't the first time. Tab said he didn't remember much whenever he took too much prescription medicine.

Identified in federal court only by his first name to protect his medical privacy, Tab testified Tuesday that he could get prescription painkillers anytime he wanted from the Schneider Medical Clinic in Haysville.

Stephen and Linda Schneider, the former doctor and his wife who ran the clinic, listened to Tab testify that their prescribing practices enabled his drug addiction.

When Stephen Schneider's lawyer told the witness to stick with the facts and not his opinions, the judge interrupted.

"Well, I want to hear your opinion," U.S. District Judge Monti Belot said.

"I believe he overwrote my prescriptions, and I could have died many times," Tab said.

"I could have died, and to him I'd been just been another name on a paper."

The Schneiders are charged with contributing to the deaths of 68 patients by overprescribing narcotics, including lethal mixtures of pain relievers, opiates and muscle relaxants. They face 34 criminal counts and could face 20 years or more in prison if convicted of violating federal drug laws, health care fraud and money laundering.

Barbara, Tab's girlfriend, said she'd found him passed out in the driveway after he popped pills.

"He'd get a month's supply, and they'd be gone in a week," she testified. She also was not identified by last name in court.

Each time, Tab and Barbara said, he'd get another prescription from the Schneider Medical Clinic.

The prescriptions kept coming, Tab said, even after he failed a drug screen because he smoked marijuana.

"Sometimes, I didn't even know what day it was," Tab said.

Tab and Barbara described waiting for two to four hours for a five- to 10-minute office visit.

"Sometimes there were lines out the door," Barbara said.

Barbara said she went with Tab to about 20 appointments. One time, she remembered waiting in the hallway outside the exam room to catch Schneider.

"I told him Tabbie was overtaking his medicine," she said.

"What did the defendant do?" asked Jabari Wamble, an assistant Kansas Attorney General working with federal prosecutors in the trial.

"He walked right past me, into the room and said, 'What'll it be?' " Barbara answered.

Barbara didn't know that Tab had been examined with an MRI and sonograms and sent to a neurology specialist — all referred by Schneider.

Tab remembered those tests and exams after defense lawyer Lawrence Williamson reminded him — reading from medical records. Schneider also sent Tab to a psychiatrist.

Tab remembered telling Schneider about waking up in emergency rooms after the car crash and other overdoses.

Hospitals called numerous times to report overdoses, a former medical technician and insurance billing officer at the Haysville clinic testified Tuesday.

Angela Dunnavent, who helped with office billing, said she put notes in patient files about the overdose reports. She also testified that she noticed sometimes those notes would disappear.

Dunnavent and Jamie Hilliard, a medical technician, said Linda Schneider asked them to falsify records.

Hilliard said she saw stacks of records from visits that didn't record vital signs of patients during office visits.

Linda Schneider, who managed the clinic, told her, "just fill in the blanks," Hilliard testified.

The trial continues today.

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