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A West Virginia physician isn’t sure he can ever obtain justice in
After federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents invaded his
office, terrorized his family and patients, arrested him on phony
charges — charges so bogus a judge threw them out in disgust — and
after having spent more than $300,000 to defend himself, Dr. Danny
Westmoreland still can’t obtain justice.
On the morning of June 23, 1995, Westmoreland’s Mason, West Virginia
home and office were invaded by a contingent of 17 Drug Enforcement
Administration agents and local sheriffs. With DEA agent Mike Mounts
leading the attack, his team assaulted the reception area with guns
drawn and forced more than a dozen patients to put their hands against
Westmoreland first learned of the attack when his daughter came
screaming into the house to tell him his office was being robbed. When
he and his wife ran outside to find the police already on the scene,
they were relieved — but their relief quickly turned to horror as they
realized that it was the police who were attacking the medical
While Westmoreland and his wife were still outside, DEA agents inside
his home had cornered his housekeeper and his nine-year-old son and held
guns to their heads. His son was weeping and shaking uncontrollably from
fear. Other agents searched the house for medical records.
As Westmoreland tells it, he yelled at one of the leaders, whom he
later learned was Randy Rine, a local DEA agent.
“What are you doing?” he yelled.
“You know exactly what we’re doing,” said Rine.
“But I don’t know who you are,” said Westmoreland. No agent would
tell him why his clinic was being raided by the S.W.A.T. team. He
demanded to be shown a search warrant, but was refused.
Then, for eight hours he sat in his kitchen as the DEA ransacked his
home. They took his computers, medical files and even a couple of
two-dollar bills that his dying father had given to his son and
After several hours, said Westmoreland, one of the DEA agents gave
him some advice.
“Listen,” the agent said, according to Westmoreland, “you need to
understand something. My sister was once accused of something she didn’t
do. You need to get out and tell your side of the story before the news
makes up their own side.” Westmoreland didn’t know what to say because
he still didn’t know why his home office was being ransacked. The agent
recommended he seek legal counsel from local attorney Mike Carey.
After meeting with Carey the following week, Westmoreland learned
that he was being charged with money laundering, Medicaid fraud, and
prescribing unnecessary pain medications.
It took two agonizing years before Westmoreland finally learned the
truth about what had happened to him. The attack on his home had been a
setup, he found out, orchestrated by two former disgruntled employees
who had conspired with a local DEA agent to teach Westmoreland a lesson.
As he faced the bogus charges against him, government lawyers offered
him a deal: If Westmoreland would confess to minor offenses, they would
fine him one dollar and walk away from the case. Westmoreland, however,
was outraged at the injustice done to him and to his wife and children
as well as his patients during the raid. He insisted on going to trial
to prove his innocence.
It was two years before Westmoreland’s case came to trial. The
government’s case against Westmoreland was so weak and filled with so
many lies that Judge Joseph R. Goodwin would not even allow the jury to
render a verdict. After reviewing the evidence, Goodwin dismissed all
charges against Westmoreland.
The transcripts of the court proceedings held on Sept. 24, 1997, and
Oct. 20, 1997, reveal that DEA agents were willing to lie under oath to
protect themselves from being held liable for their actions.
The judge was outraged at the DEA for its invasion of Westmoreland’s
office and how they terrorized his patients.
“I am appalled,” said Goodwin, “I am shocked. And it is something
this Court will not tolerate. I intend to review this evidence very
carefully. It is one of the most outrageous things I’ve ever heard of.
… And if I have to call for an investigation from Washington … I
will do that because that will not happen in this district ever again.
There is not justification for it.”
The judge issued this opinion on Oct. 20, 1997. All counts against
Westmoreland were dropped for insufficient evidence. In rendering his
verdict, the judge told the jury, “In our system of justice, it’s a rare
occasion when a Court is required to enter a judgment of acquittal
without allowing the jury to make its own decision. … I believe that
no reasonable jury person could conclude that this defendant was guilty
of each and every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt, then
[because of these facts] I take the case from you and grant the
defendant acquittal on each count.”
Westmoreland was relieved to be acquitted, but it had cost him more
than $300,000 to defend himself against the false charges.
Targeted for harassment
A local law enforcement agent told Westmoreland he had been targeted
for harassment by his former office secretary Sheila Russell Murphy, his
former partner Dr. Ronald Chattin and DEA agent Randy Rine. Court
documents provide evidence of collusion between Murphy, Chattin and
Murphy’s 1997 testimony under oath revealed that she and her good
friend Dr. Chattin had decided to work together with the government
against Westmoreland. They were attempting to find evidence to prove the
physician was guilty of Medicaid fraud or of illegally dispensing drugs.
Murphy’s motivation appeared to be her anger that Westmoreland had
denied her an extra, unearned week of paid vacation. Chattin was angry
that Westmoreland had fired him for failing to generate an adequate
income for the business. According to court records, Chattin encouraged
Murphy to contact DEA agent Rine about Westmoreland.
Murphy then offered her services to Rine as an undercover informant
for the DEA in Westmoreland’s office. She claimed the physician was
overbilling Medicaid patients and was prescribing illegal drugs. Neither
of the claims were true. She also helped Rine in an attempted sting
operation by introducing a female DEA agent to Westmoreland as one of
her relatives who needed drugs. The sting failed when Westmoreland
refused to prescribe the drugs.
However, Murphy herself was eventually prosecuted for forging
Westmoreland’s signature on prescription drug order sheets. She
confessed to obtaining drugs for her husband who was in prison in
DEA agent apologizes
Just a few months after Goodwin dropped all charges against
Westmoreland, DEA agent Mike Mounts came to the physician’s home for a
brief visit. He apologized for what had happened during the raid and
said he knew something was wrong with the operation from the beginning.
He said when he arrived at the staging area, he and his agents were told
to “do it hard” when they attacked the home office. He also told
Westmoreland that his tactical team had watched videos of the assault on
the David Koresh compound at Waco for guidance on how to take the
According to Westmoreland, Mounts’ supervisors had him removed from
the area quickly in 1995 to avoid having him testify in court. Mounts
indicated he would have told the truth about what happened. He also said
he had protested the DEA operation to higher authorities, but was made
the scapegoat for the incident. Court documents indicate he was fired
from the DEA in 1996.
Mounts told Westmoreland his supervisors had nailed him on a phony
“morals charge” — specifically he had been accused of violating DEA
policy when he shipped some of his finance’s furniture with his own when
he was moving to a new location.
WND attempted to contact Mounts for his perspective on this case, but
our repeated phone calls were not returned. Mounts is currently working
as a private investigator in Charleston, West Virginia.
Justice delayed is justice denied
Although the law and the facts are on his side, Westmoreland is
frustrated by his own lawyers’ apparent unwillingness to take on the
DEA. He is currently suing Dr. Ronald Chattin for causing financial
damage to his business, but expects to receive only a vague apology.
“He’s offered to pay some legal fees and give me a formal apology,”
said Westmoreland, “but he won’t admit he’s done anything. The apology
would be for anything that may have given a disheartening picture of
myself or the clinic.”
Westmoreland is also currently suing West Virginia’s Medicaid Fraud
Unit and several DEA agents on behalf of his children for the violation
of their civil rights. But he is concerned that the statute of
limitations may have run out.
After firing his first two lawyers for refusing to properly represent
his interests, his next two lawyers helped him through his brief trial,
but dropped out when he decided to sue one of their local lawyer
Today, his fifth lawyer, Jack Kessler, is still dragging his feet in
filing a civil rights lawsuit against DEA agents and a former employee
who was involved in a conspiracy to destroy his business and reputation,
Westmoreland is convinced that because of the cozy relationships
between law firms in West Virginia — and because of their desire to
obtain federal appointments — few local lawyers are willing to sue the
federal government. While Kessler is willing to sue individual DEA
agents, he refuses to sue the DEA for its attack on Westmoreland’s home
office. As a result, Westmoreland has been denied justice for five
As it stands, Westmoreland has lost more than $300,000 in legal fees,
he has had his reputation damaged in the community even though he was
proven innocent of all charges — and so far, his DEA victimizers have
simply walked away.
Frank York is a free-lance
journalist living in Nashville, Tennessee.