Originally published May 11, 2011
On May 10, 2011, a federal district court judge took the rare action of acquitting former GlaxoSmithKline ("GSK") in-house counsel Lauren Stevens of all criminal charges at the close of the government's case. The charges against Stevens stemmed from a 2002 FDA investigation into whether GSK improperly promoted the anti-depressant Wellbutrin for weight loss, an unapproved use. In a case jointly brought by the U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts and the Justice Department's Office of Consumer Litigation in Washington, D.C., the government alleged that Stevens covered up unfavorable documents and information from the FDA. A six-count indictment charged Stevens with Obstruction of a Proceeding in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512; Falsification/Concealment of Documents in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1519; and four counts of False Statements in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001.
After the government rested its prosecution and before Stevens put on her defense, Judge Roger W. Titus of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland granted Stevens' motion for acquittal under Rule 29 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. This procedurally uncommon move – it was the judge's first time granting such a motion in his 7 ½ years on the bench – in all likelihood puts an end to the Stevens case, as the Justice Department probably cannot appeal it under the Fifth Amendment's double jeopardy rule.
Judge Titus explained, "I conclude on the basis of...