Judge Adair to take over Desai criminal case

District Judge Valerie Adair has been assigned to take over the high-profile criminal case against Dr. Dipak Desai stemming from the hepatitis C outbreak.

Chief District Judge Jennifer Togliatti made the appointment in a brief order on Friday.

Adair, a former chief deputy district attorney who was first elected to the bench in 2002, replaces District Judge Donald Mosley, who had been overseeing the complex criminal case the past 19 months.

Mosley, 65, retired Friday after more than 30 years on the bench.

Desai, 62, and two of his nurse anesthetists, Keith Mathahs and Ronald Lakeman, are facing felony charges, including racketeering, insurance fraud and neglect of patients.

The charges, the result of one of the biggest investigations ever conducted by the Metropolitan Police Department, revolve around seven people who authorities say were infected with the potentially deadly hepatitis C virus at Desai's clinics in 2007.

In her order, Togliatti noted that Adair had been coordinating pretrial matters in the civil cases brought by former Desai patients alleging they were infected with hepatitis C.

"Said experience and knowledge acquired as coordinating judge in the civil infected cases will promote judicial economy in management of the discovery and evidentiary issues in the instant criminal case," Togliatti wrote.

Calendar call for the March 12 trial is set for Monday. But both sides and Mosley have acknowledged that the trial, which could run six weeks or more, is going to be delayed.

Togliatti ordered Adair to set a status check "as soon as practicable" to reset the trial date.

According to Michael Cristalli, one of the defense attorneys in the case, unresolved issues remain in the defense's effort to discover evidence.

Those issues relate to documents that have surfaced in the massive civil litigation involving Desai and his clinics. Cristalli has estimated that 1 million or more pages of documents have been turned over to the defense, and more are being sought.

Defense lawyers have been going all out to gain access to sworn depositions and other documents in the civil cases. They also have been fighting to obtain all of the files of the Southern Nevada Health District, which initially investigated the hepatitis C outbreak.

Months of delays in the case over whether Desai was competent to stand trial also have precluded his lawyers from filing pretrial motions, including one challenging the grand jury proceedings that led to his indictment.

Now that Desai has been found competent to assist his lawyers, those motions will take time to go through the court process.

One of the first orders of business for Adair in the criminal case will be to oversee the taking of sworn depositions for two of the ailing hepatitis C victims.

Rodolfo Meana, 76, who is dying of complications from the virus, and Carole Grueskin, 72, who is suffering from mental health problems tied to her hepatitis C infection, are to give the depositions on March 13. Prosecutors have said both probably won't be available to testify at trial.

Their infections are among seven the Southern Nevada Health District has genetically linked to Desai's lead clinic, the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada. Both victims testified before the grand jury that indicted Desai and the two nurse anesthetists.

Contact Jeff German at jgerman@review journal.com or 702-380-8135.