Seffner doctor takes the stand in trial on drug trafficking charges

Dr. John Mubang, charged with felony trafficking in illegal drugs and prescribing controlled substances without medical necessity, testifies Wednesday.

WILLIE J. ALLEN JR. | Times

Dr. John Mubang, charged with felony trafficking in illegal drugs and prescribing controlled substances without medical necessity, testifies Wednesday.

TAMPA — Dr. John Mubang took the stand in his own trial Wednesday to say three undercover deputies who visited him in 2008 truly needed the painkillers and anti-anxiety medication he gave them.

Mubang said he thoroughly examined the men and determined they had pain and anxiety. They didn't even need to say so, he testified, because their symptoms were apparent.

The doctor, who still works at his Seffner clinic, has been accused of prescribing potentially dangerous painkillers to undercover detectives who say they had never complained of pain. He has been charged with drug trafficking.

In testimony this week, the three deputies said they described only "stiffness" or "discomfort" when they visited him. They said Mubang never physically examined them and didn't ask about their medical histories.

But Mubang said he did examine them. Signs such as sweaty palms, tightening of their backs when he lifted their legs and one detective's complaint that he was having trouble sleeping gave Mubang reason to write the prescriptions, he testified.

"It's my independent, objective finding," he said.

In cross examination, Assistant State Attorney Sean Keefe played an audio recording of undercover Detective William Sims' visit. He stopped the tape at 56 seconds, after Mubang can be heard saying, "I'll give you 10."

Mubang acknowledged that he was referring to Percocet that contained 10 milligrams of oxycodone.

"So you had done enough in 56 seconds to prescribe opiates?" Keefe asked.

Yes, Mubang said. He had reviewed Sims' chart before walking in the room and had been examining him the entire time, the doctor testified.

Before Mubang took the stand, Dr. Oregon Hunter, a pain management doctor from Ocala, testified as an expert witness for the prosecution. Hunter said he had reviewed the detectives' reports during the five-month investigation, and later read transcripts from their visits.

Hunter testified that Mubang's care was "significantly" below the standard expected from a physician. Mubang should have reviewed their medical histories and examined the three men more thoroughly.

He said evidence didn't show Mubang did those things.

"You need to be able to justify the prescription of a controlled substance," Hunter said.

He also said that Mubang should have noticed several red flags during the visits — such as Detective John Couey's statement during one that he had sold some Percocet pills to a relative in exchange for a suit to wear to his father's funeral.

Mubang testified he didn't think Couey was serious. The doctor hadn't even prescribed him Percocet. He had prescribed a different painkiller, Vicodin.

"I thought he was joking," Mubang testified.

On Wednesday, Circuit Judge Ronald Ficarrotta threw out a charge that accused Mubang of writing a prescription for a controlled substance solely for money.

Closing arguments are expected to start this morning. A verdict could be returned as early as the afternoon.

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

Seffner doctor takes the stand in trial on drug trafficking charges 09/15/10 [Last modified: Thursday, September 16, 2010 8:02am]

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