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Defense attorney challenges ruling on Desai’s competency

Defense attorney Richard Wright is seeking a hearing to challenge the conclusions of the state medical experts who found Dr. Dipak Desai competent to stand trial on criminal charges in the hepatitis C outbreak.

In court papers filed Thursday, Wright said he wants "all records pertaining to the competency evaluation, observation and treatment of Desai" that are in the possession of the experts who examined his client at the state mental hospital in Sparks.

He said he wants the raw data from psychological testing, the test results, all notes from mental health and medical staff, radiology records, medical examinations and counseling, treatment and rehabilitation records.

An Oct. 11 hearing on how to proceed with Wright’s challenge has been set before District Judge Kathleen Delaney, who oversees all competency matters in District Court.

Wright wrote to Delaney last week asking her to order jail officials to release Desai after he arrives from the Lakes Crossing facility. He could return to Las Vegas next week.

Desai, 61, was free on $1 million bail in March when he was ordered into custody and taken to Lakes Crossing for more observation. At the time, two court-appointed medical experts from Las Vegas, psychologist Shera D. Bradley and psychiatrist Dr. Michael S. Krelstein, had found Desai incompetent to stand trial because of the effects of two strokes.

But after six months of further evaluation at Lakes Crossing, medical experts there found that he was competent to help his lawyers, concluding that he was exaggerating the physical impairments the strokes had caused.

Desai and two of his nurse anesthetists, Keith Mathahs and Ronald Lakeman, face a March 12 trial before District Judge Donald Mosley on felony charges, including racketeering, insurance fraud and neglect of patients.

The charges revolve around seven people who authorities say were infected with the potentially deadly hepatitis C virus at Desai’s endoscopy clinics.

Desai also faces federal charges .

He is to be tried May 22 with Tonya Rushing, his clinic manager, on one count of conspiracy and 25 counts of health care fraud.

An indictment alleged the pair carried out a scheme from January 2005 through February 2008 to inflate the length of medical procedures and overbill health insurance companies. Desai has yet to enter a plea in the federal case.

Before Desai was transported to Lakes Crossing, Chief Deputy District Attorney Mike Staudaher, who is prosecuting Desai in the local case, suggested in court papers that the physician was faking his illness.

Staudaher accused Desai of hiding "behind a curtain of mental and physical impairment" to avoid the consequences of his actions.

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

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