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Signature Pharmacy case dismissed? Not so fast…

Bloggers on pro-steroid websites have been jubilant over the last 48 hours, since the dismissal of a New York indictment against Signature Pharmacy owners for sales of anabolic steroids, allegedly without a valid prescription, was announced. Signature had been accused of, among other things, having doctors write sham prescriptions for steroids based only on filling out an online form.

So online consultations without an in-person visit are okay now, right? Not so fast.

First, nine defendants (about half of them) have already pleaded guilty in this case. Attorneys don’t generally let their clients plead guilty without conceding that the government has a solid case. Period.

Second, keep in mind that this case was brought under New York State law, which is admittedly a bit more murky on this topic than the law of other states. (New York State law will be the topic of a separate blog.) One state, one judge, a few defendants. Not wise to draw any meaningful conclusions from this, especially about Federal law or the possible success of such indictments in other states.

Third, the judge didn’t dismiss the case because there wasn’t one. Rather, the judge dismissed the case because the DA’s office gave incomplete and insufficient instructions to the Grand Jury, and because of how many indictments, superseding indictments, and so forth, had emerged. (Side note: this is unsurprising as Signature Pharmacy is alleged to have constructed a fairly elaborate national scheme, so it’s natural that prosecutors would have tried to update indictments as they discovered additional information, possibly from defendants who gave them that information after pleading guilty.) This is basically a dismissal on a technicality, not a “not guilty” finding after full adjudication. (Keep in mind, of course, that the defendants are innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.)

Fourth, let’s not forget the overall issue here: Operation Which Doctor is said to have stopped millions of dollars in illegal anabolic steroid sales; some of these allegedly are linked to the death of pro-wrestler Chris Benoit. If the allegations were correct, this was a massive drug-dealing operation.

The media is portraying this as is there wasn’t ever a case. Wrong conclusion. In fact, given the number of guilty pleas so far, the right conclusion is that Operation Which Doctor has been successful, and the guilty pleas of the defendants do indicate that something very wrong was going on with the overall operation.