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No preliminary hearing for University of Pittsburgh professor

A 52-year-old pharmacy professor at the University of Pittsburgh is facing serious drug charges after a colleague noticed what were described as "suspicious" drug purchases. The professor is accused of using federal grant money and school funds to purchase anti-anxiety medication and painkillers to be injected.

Police were alerted by the chairman of the university's pharmacy school, and the professor was officially charged with felony drug crimes several months ago. He is up against 18 counts of obtaining prescription drugs through misrepresentation. The alleged offenses date back to 2011.

Agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration and university police searched the man's office and reportedly seized a variety of prescription medications, including Clonazepam, Demerol, Lorazepam and Midazolam.

A criminal complaint indicates that the professor admitted to using the drugs and is seeking rehab. He is currently on leave from his job at the university.

On Jan. 8, he decided not to have a preliminary hearing.

In terms of criminal defense, the decision to waive one's right to a preliminary hearing can suggest a number of things. Waiving the hearing means the case can go to trial, but not immediately. Sometimes a defendant will waive this right in order to avoid more charges that could result from the evidence presented at the hearing. Or maybe a defendant intends to quietly enter a guilty plea and avoid extended reputation damage.

Defendants may also waive their right to a preliminary hearing if it is preferable that the judge not hear too many details in the case. Or maybe after waiving the preliminary hearing, the defense can move for continuances that push back the trial date.

Not waiving the preliminary hearing forces the government to prove that there is at least some evidence that a crime was committed, and that the defendant is linked to the alleged crime. However, if the prosecution is unable to convince the judge, then the charge should be dismissed.

To learn more about defending against state and federal drug charges, please visit our criminal defense website.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Pitt professor waives hearing in drug case," Liz Navratil, Jan. 8, 2014

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