Najawicz wins temporary halt of hospital corruption trial
Published: October 11, 2012
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The territory's high court has prohibited a V.I. Superior Court judge from proceeding with the retrial of former Schneider Regional Medical Center executive Peter Najawicz until an appeal Najawicz filed with the high court has been decided.
The V.I. Supreme Court on Wednesday evening issued the order granting Najawicz's petition to temporarily halt his trial while the appeal is pending. He is one of three co-defendants, all former Schneider Regional executives.
The move came after two days of jury selection in Superior Court for the retrial of Rodney Miller Sr., Amos Carty Jr. and Najawicz.
Robert King, Najawicz's attorney, did not respond to a Daily News request for comment on Wednesday night.
The justices noted in their order that their decision would force Superior Court Judge Michael Dunston, who is presiding over the trial, to choose between:
- Allowing the trial to proceed for Miller and Carty, with Najawicz to be tried at a later date if his appeal is unsuccessful.
- Postponing the trial so that all three defendants can be tried together.
Although Dunston originally had anticipated it would take two days for jury selection in the high-profile retrial of the three men, on Wednesday evening a jury had not yet been empaneled, and the plan had been to continue jury selection this morning.
It was not clear Wednesday night how long it might take for the Supreme Court to decide the appeal.
Najawicz is appealing Dunston's denial of a motion to dismiss on double jeopardy grounds, as well as a motion for judgment of acquittal.
This is the second trial for Miller, 40, Carty, 47, and Najawicz, 45.
They are accused of conspiring together to steal money from the hospital. The charges against them include conspiracy, embezzlement, grand larceny and fraud, as well as violating the Criminally Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or CICO. They initially were arrested in October 2008.
Their first trial - in May and June of 2011 - lasted six weeks and ended in a mistrial, with jurors unable to reach a unanimous verdict on any one of the 44 charges that comprised the case at that point.
In the petition for the order prohibiting Najawicz's trial from proceeding while the appeal is pending, King contended that the appeal "raises substantial issues related to double jeopardy. It raises issues concerning the propriety and premature declaration of a mistrial by the court; the absence of manifest necessity for the declaration of a mistrial; the right of the defendant to have his case determined by a particular jury; the grant of a mistrial over the objection of the defendant; the financial burden on the accused; the emotional burden on the accused and the prolonged period in which Mr. Najawicz has been stigmatized by the unresolved accusations of wrongdoing against him."
In other action in the case on Wednesday, the V.I. Supreme Court denied a motion for an emergency stay in the trial from Miller, who on Wednesday appealed Dunston's order denying his motion for appointment of legal counsel to the high court.
However, the justices gave the parties the opportunity to brief, on an expedited basis, whether the Supreme Court has jurisdiction over the appeal at this point, giving Miller and the V.I. Justice Department until 3 p.m. Friday to file briefs on the matter.
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