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Mistrial declared in case of Seffner doctor who prescribed painkillers to detectives

TAMPA — After 51/2 hours of deliberation, a jury couldn't agree Thursday if Dr. John Mubang was guilty of drug trafficking.

Circuit Judge Ronald Ficarrotta declared a mistrial because the six jurors hearing the case couldn't reach a unanimous decision. A hearing was scheduled for Oct. 20, when a new trial date could be set.

Five of the jurors wanted to declare Mubang not guilty, said jury foreman Donnie Jensen.

They didn't believe the state had proved the doctor, who runs a clinic in Seffner, had prescribed controlled drugs in "bad faith" — meaning that he didn't ensure his patients truly needed the painkillers he gave them.

But one juror thought Mubang was guilty, Jensen said.

So after 41/2 hours of jury deliberation, a bailiff emerged with a note signed by Jensen: "We the jury in the case of John Mubang have been unable to reach a unanimous decision."

The judge told them to keep trying.

An hour later, another note emerged: "We the jury in the trial of John Mubang cannot reach a verdict a second time!"

The judge thanked the jurors for their service and dismissed them.

In court earlier this week, the state accused the doctor of quickly prescribing potentially dangerous painkillers to three undercover detectives who never specifically complained of pain.

The undercover detectives had visited Mubang's clinic several times over five months in 2008 as part of a Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office investigation.

In testimony Tuesday and Wednesday, the detectives said Mubang never examined them or inquired about their medical histories. They said he quickly wrote out prescriptions for pain and anxiety medications.

For Mubang to have written in the men's medical files that they had anxiety and lower back spasms is absurd, Assistant State Attorney Sean Keefe said in closing arguments Thursday morning.

"There was nothing wrong with these people," Keefe said, his voice rising. "How did he find that? He didn't find that. He made it up."

The defense had laid out a starkly different case.

Defense attorneys said Mubang did examine the men — Mubang even testified so on Wednesday.

The doctor had pointed out notes in the detectives' medical files, where he said he had jotted down observations about their ears, eyes, throats, breathing and other checks he said he performed.

That's one of the things that stood out to jury foreman Jensen, who is a correspondent covering parimutuels for the St. Petersburg Times and a full-time Postal Service employee.

"It looks, to us, like he did examinations on them," Jensen said.

He said he noticed inconsistencies on both sides that concerned him.

"I was a pingpong ball going back the whole day, Tuesday, Wednesday," he said. "It seemed whoever had the floor seemed to have the upper hand, the lead.

"And whether you believed Dr. Mubang or the officers, I think that there's questions still out there."

He was a little frustrated the jury deliberated for several hours without reaching a unanimous decision, but believes all the jurors did the best they could.

"Everybody made the decision for what was right, in their beliefs," he said. "And that's what's most important."

Both prosecutors and defense attorneys declined to comment after the trial. So did the detectives who worked undercover, since they could be called as witnesses again if the state decides to retry the case.

Hillsborough State Attorney Office spokesman Mark Cox declined to give an indication either way.

"It's a pending case, and the prosecution is ongoing," he said.

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at jvandervelde@sptimes.com or (813)226-3433.

Mistrial declared in case of Seffner doctor who prescribed painkillers to detectives 09/16/10 [Last modified: Thursday, September 16, 2010 9:09pm]
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