HAMMOND | Former international fugitive Mark S. Weinberger declined to ask a judge Thursday to release him from jail on bond pending trial on 22 fraud counts, and that trial likely won't happen in the next few months.
Weinberger, 46, pleaded not guilty Thursday in Hammond federal court to charges he billed patients for procedures he didn't perform.
Weinberger and defense lawyer Adam Tavitas didn't contest the prosecution's request in court Thursday that the man formerly known as "The Nose Doctor" be held without bond before trial. Tavitas also agreed to waive Weinberger's rights under the Speedy Trial Act, meaning his trial does not need to start within 70 days of his initial court appearance Monday.
Assistant U.S Attorney David Nozick said the evidence in the case would be "voluminous."
Magistrate Judge Paul R. Cherry asked Weinberger -- again dressed in an orange Porter County Jail uniform -- why he wanted to waive his speedy trial rights.
"It allows us more time to review medical records," Weinberger said.
In his second brief procedural court hearing on U.S. soil, Weinberger confronted a courtroom packed with court system personnel, security guards, U.S. marshals, civil lawyers, news reporters and a correspondent from the ABC television news magazine "20/20." One attendee grumbled that he was "unfortunately" one of Weinberger's former patients. The man declined to be interviewed.
Outside court, Tavitas said he has no question of Weinberger's competence to stand trial. Tavitas said Weinberger has had contact with family since he was returned to Indiana from Italy a few days ago. Weinberger was told in court Thursday that if he were convicted on all 22 charges, he could face a 440-year prison sentence.
"He's doing OK," Tavitas said. "It's pretty daunting to say the least."
Local attorney Kenneth Allen, who filed many of the civil suits Weinberger faces from former patients, returned to court Thursday. Allen said he expects "evasion" and "excuses" from the former doctor. Allen has said Weinberger should be compelled under a judge's writ to come to Allen's office in March for a deposition in the civil cases.
"He will be there to face the family of the patient that he killed," Allen said.
Weinberger was captured on an Italian mountainside Dec. 15, 5 1/2 years after he disappeared on a family trip to Greece. A guide on the mountain tipped off authorities the former doctor was living in a tent with high-tech survival gear. Weinberger was taken to a hospital after he stabbed himself in the neck with a knife he had hidden while he was being arrested.
When Weinberger vanished in 2004, he left his Merrillville sinus clinic buried beneath some $7 million in outstanding debts. Weinberger still faces 357 civil malpractice claims, according to the Indiana Patient Compensation Fund's Web site.
Weinberger faces severe potential civil damages, but it was the 22-count criminal indictment issued in Hammond federal court that led to his arrest. Federal grand jurors indicted Weinberger in December 2006 on charges he billed insurance companies for procedures he didn't perform.