Dr. Frank Lazzerini pleaded not guilty Friday to 272 counts related to allegations he operated a "pill mill" and overprescribed pain medication that led to the deaths of two people.
CANTON Unless someone is willing to post his $5 million bond, Dr. Frank Lazzerini will be spending the months before his trial in the Stark County Jail.
Stark County Common Pleas Judge Kristin Farmer on Friday denied a request to lower the bond amount to around $100,000 with only 10 percent required to be posted up front.
She said she considered the fact that Lazzerini has no prior criminal record and that he had not fled the area the past two years despite knowing he was the subject of a criminal investigation.
But she noted that he faces 272 counts for a multitude of felonies, including two counts of involuntary manslaughter, one count of engaging in a patter of corrupt behavior, Medicaid fraud and nearly 200 counts of trafficking in prescription pain medication.
Stark County Prosecutor John D. Ferrero has accused Lazzerini of running a pill mill at his practice in Jackson Township and overprescribing pain medication for profit, which led to the deaths of two of his patients.
Farmer cited the"unprecedented number of charges, at least for this county" and "the potential sentence that he could face if found guilty of all such charges is very significant. ... it is the court's position that the bond remains unchanged."
Before Farmer's decision, Lazzerini pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
As he was escorted out of the courtroom, one observer said, "hang in there, doc."
"We love you," another woman said.
Both declined later to comment.
Defense attorney Donald Malarcik argued that his client posed little risk of fleeing while released on bond. He said Lazzerini cooperated with the search of his office and home in February 2016 and gave officers the key to his house in Barberton. He had stayed in the area despite knowing he might face manslaughter charges and that prosecutors would want him to serve prison time as part of a plea deal.
"During that whole time, obviously Mr. Lazzerini had every opportunity to attempt to flee. He did not do that. He stayed in the community. He hasn't committed any offenses," Malarcik said.
Lazzerini's attorney said on the day of his arrest on Feb. 16, Lazzerini was working with his father painting houses in Akron. Lazzerini had surrendered his medical license due to the investigation.
Summit County native
Malarcik added that Lazzerini had lived in Summit County his entire life. He graduated from Firestone High School in 1996 as a valedictorian, he graduated from the University of Akron summa cum laude with honors in 2001, he graduated from Northeast Ohio Medical University in 2006 and he did a two-year residency at Akron General.
He had significant ties to the community, several of his family members live in the area, he had a full-time job working for his father and he had no current passport, the attorney said. He said the court could order that Lazzerini wear a GPS tracker and be confined to his home.
The attorney said without a medical license Lazzerini can't see patients, can't prescribe them medication and does not pose any substantial risk to the community.
Malarcik said that four medical experts, retained by Lazzerini's past attorneys in two malpractice suits against Lazzerini that were later withdrawn, found that the doctor had not improperly prescribed medication and that he acted "well within the standard of care."
Senior assistant Stark County Prosecutor Toni Schnellinger countered that the plaintiffs in those lawsuits had experts who believed the doctor had acted improperly. She asked the court to keep the bond at $5 million.
Farmer scheduled a pre-trial hearing for March 7 to start discussions on a trial date and the process by which the prosecutor's office and Lazzerini's attorneys will share evidence in the case.
Reach Repository writer Robert Wang at (330) 580-8327 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @rwangREP