A federal judge in Greenbelt has acquitted the former GlaxoSmithKline lawyer accused of lying to the government about off-label marketing of one of the pharmaceutical company’s drugs.
Judge Roger Titus said Tuesday there was not sufficient evidence in the case against former Glaxo Associate General Counsel Lauren Stevens to submit it to the jury.
On Monday, after prosecutors had spent 10 days presenting their case against Stevens in U.S. District Court, the defense filed a motion for acquittal of six criminal charges in the obstruction of a federal investigation case.
“I conclude on the basis of the record before me that only with a jaundiced eye and with an inference of guilt that’s inconsistent with the presumption of innocence could a reasonable jury ever convict this defendant,” Titus said.
Titus said in his seven and a half years as a judge, he had never granted this type of motion.
“There is, however, always a first,” he said.
Stevens, 61, should never have been prosecuted and she should be able to continue with her career, the judge wrote.
The indictment charged Stevens, of Durham, N.C., with falsifying documents and obstructing a Food and Drug Administration probe into her company’s marketing of the anti-depressant Wellbutrin SR as a weight-loss drug, a use not approved by the Silver Spring-based FDA.
Stevens was indicted in November, but Titus threw out the indictment in March after finding that prosecutors had erred in their presentation of the case to a grand jury. Stevens was charged again and the trial began at the end of April.
The case is U.S. v. Stevens, 10-cr-694.
Neither Stevens’ attorney, Reid H. Weingarten of Steptoe & Johnson LLP in Washington, D.C., nor Patrick G. Jasperse, the Washington-based Justice Department attorney who prosecuted the case, returned calls for comment on Tuesday.
In opening statements on April 27, Jasperse told the jury that Stevens “went too far” and that the case was “about lies and deception.”
Weingarten, though, portrayed Stevens as a diligent lawyer who cooperated with FDA investigators honestly and in good faith while zealously representing her client.
“Everything she did was inconsistent with an intent to deceive,” Weingarten said, noting that Stevens, the company’s former vice president and associate general counsel, consulted with the King & Spalding law firm in responding to FDA investigators. “That’s not a cover-up person. That’s a fixer-up person.”