Jury tackles complex trial of Ohio pediatrician - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Jury tackles complex trial of Ohio pediatrician

Dr. Mark Blankenburg Dr. Mark Blankenburg

HAMILTON (AP) - A broad range of charges against twin brother pediatricians accused of molesting some of their patients, with some allegations dating back 20 years, make the legal case particularly challenging for the judge and jury, legal experts said.

Dr. Mark Blankenburg, 53, went on trial Monday. He faces 41 charges involving sex, drugs, bribery, money laundering and compelling prostitution. His brother, Dr. Scott Blankenburg, goes on trial in April on 22 charges that are similar but do not include drug counts. Both have pleaded not guilty.

The doctors have been ordered not to be with minors and have agreed not to practice medicine while their cases are pending. Adding to the complexity, the judge in the current trial is determining some counts and the jury is deciding others.

Mark Blankenburg last week waived his right to a jury on some charges. The judge ruled that the jury will determine the 16 sex charges against Blankenburg, while he decides Blankenburg's guilt or innocence on 25 charges including bribery, money laundering, compelling prostitution and drugs.

"I've never had a case where I've tried some charges to a jury and some to a judge for the same defendant in one trial," said defense attorney Martin Pinaleso of Cincinnati, a former president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. "I'm not saying it's never happened, but I've never heard of it to this extent."

Other legal analysts said the complexity of the case sets up issues for possible appeal if the doctor is convicted.

"When you have so much evidence that has to be put in little compartments or limited areas, you're going to run into issues of whether it was done correctly," said Cincinnati defense attorney William Gallagher.

Four men accuse Mark Blankenburg of molesting them as minors and giving them hush money and prescription narcotics that led to drug abuse. Three of the accusers say they continued to demand money from the doctor as adults in exchange for sex and silence.

The defense says the doctor is the victim of extortion and false allegations. Not only were separate trials ordered for the brothers, but a judge determined that pornography charges against Mark Blankenburg would be heard separately in a second trial not yet scheduled.

Jurors last week appeared to pay close attention as the judge instructed them to focus on the alleged sex crimes while hearing evidence also involved in the other charges. Issues that could lead to appeals include whether evidence was properly presented on separate charges, analysts said.

"You can't have a million trials on these charges, so mostly it's all having to go into one trial," said Christo Lassiter, a law and criminal justice professor at the University of Cincinnati. "But obviously the prosecution, the judge and the defense have to be very careful about all the information going before the jury."

The prosecution last week called the four accusers, their family members and girlfriends to testify. Blankenburg's attorneys repeatedly challenged the accusers' truthfulness and character during cross-examination.

The defense is expected to present its case in the coming days. Two accusers have criminal records, with one in prison for life for attempting to kill a police officer.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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