Opioid maker Insys' founder asks U.S. Supreme Court to toss conviction

John Kapoor, the billionaire founder of Insys Therapeutics Inc, arrives at the federal courthouse for the first day of the trial accusing Insys executives of a wide-ranging scheme to bribe doctors to prescribe an addictive opioid medication, in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., January 28, 2019. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
  • Insys founder John Kapoor asks Supreme Court to overturn conviction
  • Supreme Court in November agreed to consider related case with doctor

(Reuters) - The founder of the drug manufacturer Insys Therapeutics Inc has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn his conviction for conspiring to bribe doctors to prescribe addictive opioids and defraud insurers into paying for them.

Lawyers for John Kapoor, Insys' former executive chairman, who was the highest-level corporate executive to be convicted of crimes related to the opioid epidemic, urged the justices to take up his appeal in a petition this week.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Boston, which prosecuted the cases, declined to comment.

A federal jury in 2019 found Kapoor guilty of running a wide-ranging scheme to bribe doctors nationwide by retaining them to act as speakers at sham events ostensibly meant to educate clinicians about the company's fentanyl spray, Subsys.

The 78-year-old is serving a 5-1/2-year prison sentence.

The Boston-based 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in August upheld his racketeering conspiracy conviction as well as the convictions of four other former company officials who were tried alongside him.

The racketeering conspiracy convictions were based on the jury's conclusion that Kapoor and others conspired to commit crimes including illegally distributing a controlled substance.

In Monday's petition, Kapoors' attorneys asked the justices to decide whether a non-physician could be convicted of agreeing with a doctor to illegally distribute drugs if the doctor believed he or she was acting in good faith.

The defense lawyers noted the court in November agreed to consider whether in cases against doctors prosecutors have to prove they intended to act outside the bounds of normal professional practice in order to find them guilty.

The Supreme Court did so in two cases, including one involving Xiulu Ruan, an Alabama doctor who prosecutors said accepted kickbacks from Insys and ran a "pill mill." The court is slated to hear those cases on March 1.

Kapoor's lawyers, including Kosta Stojilkovic of Wilkinson Stekloff, said the justices should also weigh whether a court should grant a motion for judgment of acquittal if "the evidence of guilt and innocence is evenly balanced."

The case is Kapoor v. United States, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 21-994.

For Kapoor: Kosta Stojilkovic and Beth Wilkinson of Wilkinson Stekloff

For the United States: Unknown

Read more:

Insys founder, others lose appeals of opioid convictions

SCOTUS to weigh good faith defense in illicit prescription cases

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Nate Raymond reports on the federal judiciary and litigation. He can be reached at nate.raymond@thomsonreuters.com.