Judge puts depositions of two Desai witnesses on hold

At the request of prosecutors, District Judge Valerie Adair on Tuesday put off indefinitely the sworn depositions of two hepatitis-infected witnesses in the criminal case against Dr. Dipak Desai and two nurse anesthetists.

Rodolfo Meana, 76, and Carole Grueskin, 72, had been scheduled to provide videotaped testimony Tuesday.

But Chief Deputy District Attorney Mike Staudaher told Adair in court that Meana, who is dying of complications from the hepatitis C virus, was back in the hospital and unavailable to testify.

Meana, who wants to return to his native Philippines, has only 5 percent of his liver function and is expected to die “sometime within the next year,” Staudaher has previously said.

Grueskin, who lives at a convalescent home, is stricken with dementia, worsened by the virus, and unable to provide coherent testimony at this time, Staudaher said Tuesday. Her brain’s cognitive functions have deteriorated to the point that she doesn’t understand the process of being sworn in to testify.

The hepatitis C cases of Meana and Grueskin are among seven the Southern Nevada Health District genetically linked to Desai’s lead clinic, the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada.

Both patients testified before the grand jury that indicted Desai, 62, and nurse anesthetists Keith Mathahs, 75, and Ronald Lakeman, 64, on an array of criminal charges that stemmed from the 2007 hepatitis outbreak.

Prosecutors had won permission to take the videotaped depositions so that they can be used, if needed, at the trial without calling Meana and Grueskin to the witness stand.

The trial is set for Oct. 22.

Meana, Grueskin and four other patients contracted the virus through unsafe injection practices on Sept. 21, 2007, at Desai’s Endoscopy Center, the health district concluded in its investigative report on the hepatitis outbreak. Another patient was infected on July 25, 2007.

All seven patients are named as victims of felony criminal neglect in a 28-count indictment against Desai, Mathahs and Lakeman. The three defendants also face felony charges of racketeering, insurance fraud and obtaining money under false pretenses.

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

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