Afterglow: Attorney played a pivotal role in acquittal of doctor


A New York native, attorney George Donnini is marking his 20th anniversary with Butzel this year.
Photo courtesy of George Donnini

By Tom Kirvan
Legal News

Attorney George Donnini has enjoyed his share of courtroom triumphs over the course of a 20-year career, but a recent victory in federal court may rank as one of his most satisfying particularly because of the stakes involved.

Donnini’s client, Monroe physician Dr. Lesly Pompy, was on trial for unlawful distribution of prescription drugs and health care fraud, part of a 39-count grand jury indictment issued in 2018 that charged him with pushing pills for profit, largely at the expense of taxpayers.

In short, the U.S. Attorney’s Office charged that between 2012 and 2016, Pompy unlawfully distributed more than 6.2 million dosage units of Schedule II controlled substances outside the course of professional medical practice, thereby adding fuel to an opioid crisis in the community. Schedule II narcotics include such drugs as morphine, codeine, hydrocodone, and oxycodone.

During that time frame, Pompy also reportedly submitted claims to Medicare, Medicaid, and Blue Cross Blue Shield totaling nearly $17 million, according to federal law enforcement officials, who alleged that the majority of the claims were seeking reimbursement for the costs of office visits and other services that were not medically necessary and/or that Pompy never rendered.

The indictment stemmed from a police raid on Pompy’s offices and house in September 2016, executing search warrants originally obtained by the Monroe County Prosecutor’s Office.

“The scale and the scope of the case was huge right from the beginning in terms of the materials that were seized and the publicity it generated,” said Donnini, noting that the raids attracted helicopter coverage from local TV stations. “He was facing criminal exposure where, if convicted, would have involved substantial prison time and the forfeiture of all of the doctor’s assets.”

The case eventually was turned over to federal investigative authorities, which included the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, raising the stakes even higher for Dr. Pompy.

“When federal agencies are involved in the investigation and then the prosecution, the case reaches a different level because of the resources and expertise they have at their disposal,” said Donnini. “The raids and subsequent indictment effectively shut down his practice, froze his assets, and deprived him of the ability to make a living while the case made its way through the trial process.”

That would take the better part of five years, due to delays caused by the pandemic and to the death in January 2022 of U.S. District Judge Arthur Tarnow, the federal jurist originally assigned to the case.

Despite the series of starts and stops, the case finally proceeded to trial this past November when approximately 30 witnesses were called to testify and lasted four weeks. The 12-person jury returned not guilty verdicts on all 34 felony counts against Pompy, while five other counts were dismissed during the course of the trial.

“This was a difficult and complex case, but through effective cross examination of the government’s witnesses and the presentation of our own defense case, we were able to give our client one of the best Christmas presents he could have ever hoped to receive in his life – a full acquittal,” Donnini said, praising the Butzel trial team of attorney Joseph Richotte, senior paralegal Victoria Murdoch, legal secretary Deb Lemanski, and paralegal/legal assistant Michelle Gillis.

“Our depth and breadth of experience rises to the top each time. We are strategic and methodical in our approach. The hard work and dedication of the attorneys who worked on this case is what led to this fantastic result for the firm’s client,” added Donnini, whose co-counsel during the case was Ronald Chapman II of the Chapman Law Group.

A 1998 graduate of Duke University School of Law, Donnini serves as co-chair of Butzel’s White Collar Criminal Defense Group.


Subscribe to the Legal News!

Full access to public notices, articles, columns, archives, statistics, calendar and more

Day Pass Only $4.95!
One-County $80/year

Three-County & Full Pass also available