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Schenectady cop's 'doctor shopping' probe outlined

Schenectady cop's 'doctor shopping' probe outlined

State health investigators looked into allegations of “doctor shopping” against city police Detectiv

State health investigators looked into allegations of “doctor shopping” against city police Detective Sherri Barnes in 2005, but ultimately chose to seek therapy for her, rather than charges, a state investigator testified Friday.

Investigator Jeffrey Shepardson, of the Department of Health, testified at Barnes’ official misconduct and criminal diversion trial that investigators got a tip Barnes was seeing multiple doctors to get prescriptions of controlled substances.

Investigators even went so far as to speak with her about it in a CVS parking lot in June 2005.

The investigation was ultimately suspended, Shepardson said, when they decided to go in a “therapeutic direction.”

Such decisions are not out of the ordinary in similar investigations, he said.

Barnes, a 20-year veteran of the Police Department, is standing trial on two counts of criminal diversion and one count of official misconduct, both misdemeanors. She is accused of illegally purchasing another woman’s medication and showing her badge to a pharmacist to speed a transaction.

Prosecutors say Barnes, 43, and the friend would go to pharmacies and the friend would fill the prescription and then give it to Barnes.

Barnes had a prescription drug dependency that had been growing for seven years, prosecutor Amy Burock contends.

It was the 2005 state investigation that Burock alleges was the motivation for Barnes to seek out civilian sources for the medications.

Burock, however, could only ask Shepardson about the general details of the investigation.

Schenectady County Court Judge Karen Drago allowed the investigation to be mentioned, but has tightly limited how much can be used.

At one point, Burock appeared to come close to forcing a mistrial, straying too far in a question about how the investigation began.

Drago allowed Shepardson to testify only that the investigation began with a call to the state Department of Health and, finally, that the call did not come from a police department.

Burock was trying to counter the defense argument that police went looking for Barnes, instead of the investigation coming to them.

When Burock asked if the call came from a pharmacist, Drago admonished Burock outside the presence of the jury for violating the court’s ruling.

It was one instance in what has become a contentious trial for both sides, with each accusing the other at some point of stretching the court’s rulings. Burock accused Barnes’ defense attorney of straying too close to the findings of Mark Haskins, a former state DOH investigator.

Haskins, who the defense has portrayed as “having no use” for Barnes, worked on the Barnes investigation but failed to show up for a pretrial hearing in the case. He is not expected to testify. Drago has barred almost all mention of him and his part of the investigation.

The defense is arguing that many of the witnesses in the case are addicted to drugs or are testifying only for a benefit. Barnes was only trying to help the woman, but became ensnared by a manipulative woman and manipulative investigators.

Also Friday, pharmacist Susan Bell concluded her testimony with cross-examination by Barnes’ defense attorney, Paul DerOhannesian.

Bell testified Thursday under questioning by Burock that Barnes flashed her badge to speed up a prescription being filled for the friend, Susan Jewett, on Jan. 5, 2009.

While uncertain about what Barnes wore that day, Jan. 5, 2009, Bell testified Friday that she was certain of what Barnes showed her.

“I definitely saw the badge,” Bell testified.

Barnes also identified herself as a police officer verbally, Bell said.

Bell’s testimony forms the basis of one of three misdemeanors Barnes faces — official misconduct.

In his questioning, DerOhannesian stressed earlier statements by Bell that Barnes was wearing a police uniform. Barnes, as a detective, wore plain clothes for work.

But Bell said she remembered Barnes wore dark blue. In recounting the events two weeks later to investigators, she extrapolated that Barnes wore a uniform.

Bell also estimated Barnes showed the badge for between 5 and 10 seconds.

She earlier had estimated less than 30 seconds.

Barnes is accused of criminally diverting a prescription medication, knowing that the person giving it to her was not authorized to do so, on Dec. 11, 2008, at the CVS Pharmacy on Eastern Parkway; and May 7, 2009, at another pharmacy.

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