Judge orders information on investigation into former MDEA agent released

Posted April 19, 2011, at 6:55 p.m.
Last modified April 20, 2011, at 1:03 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — Little is known about an investigation involving a former Maine Drug Enforcement agent that could compromise 33 criminal cases in three counties, but a judge’s order Tuesday will unseal more than 900 pages of previously undisclosed documents and eight recorded interviews.

The information, which was all kept secret under a judge’s order, will be released next month only to defense attorneys and their clients. Not even the former drug agent, Kirk Guerrette, will be able to peek at the files, which all relate to him.

The release of 900 of the more than 4,400 pages compiled in an investigation for the Maine Healthcare Crime Unit is occurring despite the unit’s objections. The unit, a division of the state Attorney General’s Office, primarily investigates MaineCare fraud. According to its director, Michael Miller,  the unit would investigate a law enforcement officer only if he were involved in a larger “criminal scheme or conspiracy” that involved a MaineCare provider.

No charges have been brought against Guerrette and it’s unclear if he has done anything illegal, but attorneys for the criminal defendants hope to obtain materials to undermine Guerrette’s credibility as a witness in their cases.

Guerrette’s attorney, Melissa Reynolds O’Dea, could not be reached for comment Tuesday, but she has insisted in the past that he’s done nothing wrong. She also has said he had a medical condition and was taking prescription medication while he worked for the MDEA. O’Dea insisted the only reason her client is part of the Healthcare Crime Unit’s investigation is because he is a witness — not a perpetrator. At the same time, she said that neither she nor Guerrette have been granted access to any of the investigative files.

A four-page report about Guerrette written by a Healthcare Crime Unit detective was released to defense attorneys months ago.

“The number of drugs listed in the [unit’s] report that we got — it’s beyond me how it could not affect his work in the cases,” Sherry Tash, attorney for one of the criminal defendants, argued during a March 7 hearing about the potential release of protected documents.

“He was never under the influence at work,” O’Dea said that same day in defending Guerrette.

Guerrette returned to work for the Knox County Sheriff’s Office when he was pulled from his MDEA assignment two days after the Healthcare Crime Unit investigator filed his report in December 2010.

Defense attorneys asked Justice Jeffrey Hjelm at the March 7 hearing to release Guerrette’s medical records as well because they felt his medical condition may have affected his work as a drug agent.

Hjelm issued an order Tuesday that apparently relates directly to Guerrette’s prescription records.

“The extent of disclosure is broad and the volume of the materials to be disclosed is significant,” Hjelm wrote in his April 19 order.

While a more than 100-page list of prescriptions issued by an unnamed physician is not being released because it pertains to other patients besides Guerrette, Hjelm indicates that the information pertinent to Guerrette is included in other material to be disclosed.

In an effort to give the Healthcare Crime Unit time to figure out how the release of information may affect the unit’s investigation, Hjelm is not making the information available to the defendants or their attorneys until May 2.

And although the amount of material freed from a former protection order is large, Hjelm limited access to the material to few. Only defense attorneys and their clients will get to see the files, which will be kept at the clerk’s office of the Superior Court in Rockland.

The justice wrote that his decision to release the information to the defendants and their attorneys is “based on constitutional rights that are afforded to criminal defendants.” Those same rights, however, are not extended to potential witnesses, such as Guerrette. Thus Guerrette and his attorney are still being denied access to the Healthcare Crime Unit’s investigative files.

Additionally, Hjelm ordered the Knox County Sheriff’s Office to hand over the results of an internal investigation into Guerrette. The justice said he would review the material to determine what, if anything, from that investigation might also be disclosed to the parties in the criminal cases.

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