Judge tosses ex-GSK lawyer's indictment on legal snafu

Ex-GlaxoSmithKline lawyer Lauren Stevens can breathe easy--for now, at least. A federal judge tossed out her indictment on charges of obstructing an investigation of the company's marketing practices, saying prosecutors fouled up when presenting their case to the grand jury, Reuters reports.

Stevens had been accused of disrupting an FDA investigation into GSK's Wellbutrin marketing, partly by making false statements to the agency about the company's practices. But prosecutors made a fatal mistake when a grand juror asked whether it mattered if Stevens had relied on advice from other lawyers when responding to FDA requests for information--and prosecutors said no.

That amounted to "erroneous and prejudicial legal advice," Titus said in his ruling. "The grand juror's question was not just any question, but rather was much akin to asking about an elephant in the room," Titus wrote (as quoted by Reuters). "The incorrect answer either substantially influenced the decision to indict or, at the very least, creates grave doubt as to that decision."

However, U.S. District Judge Roger Titus did give the government the chance to start over with Stevens' indictment. So, prosecutors may soon be presenting their case to another grand jury; they said as much during a hearing last week. But for now, the Justice Department won't reveal its cards, Bloomberg reports. "The department will not have any comment," said Patrick Jasperse, the government attorney prosecuting the case.

- see the Reuters news
- check out the Bloomberg story