Las Vegas Sun

July 18, 2018

Currently: 91° — Complete forecast

Dipak Desai ordered to mental facility after found not competent for trial

Click to enlarge photo

Dr. Dipak Desai, the majority owner of the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada, leaves a hearing at Las Vegas City Hall on March 3, 2008.

Desai Indictment

Attorney Richard Wright makes a case to keep his client, Dr. Dipak Desai, out of custody after Desai was indicted by a grand jury Friday, June 4, 2010. On the right is deputy district attorney Michael Staudaher. Launch slideshow »

The man allegedly at the center of the hepatitis C scare that rocked the Las Vegas area about three years ago has been found incompetent to stand trial — at least for now, a district judge said today.

Dipak Desai, 60, who appeared dressed in a dark suit in court with his attorneys, will have to surrender himself at 9:30 a.m. March 17 in Clark County District Court.

At that point he will eventually be taken for treatment to the state's Lake's Crossing Center for the Mentally Disabled in Sparks, according to Clark County District Judge Jackie Glass.

"We have a ways to go with this process," Glass said.

Desai, who ran the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada, and two of his nurse anaesthetists, Keith H. Mathahs and Ronald E. Lakeman, were indicted by a grand jury last year on 28 criminal counts related to the 2007-2008 hepatitis outbreak.

The felony charges include racketeering, performance of an act in reckless disregard of persons or property, criminal neglect of patients, insurance fraud, theft and obtaining money under false pretenses.

Desai's attorneys have said he has suffered two strokes, the most recent after the hepatitis outbreak, and suffers from other medical ailments that do not allow him to participate in his own defense.

Glass said Desai will be evaluated at the mental hospital and it will be determined whether they can restore his competency to stand trial. His trial had been set for March 14 and was expected to take about five weeks.

Today's court proceeding was fairly short. Glass first met privately with Desai's attorney, Richard Wright, and with prosecutors, including Chief Deputy District Attorney Mike Staudaher, for about 10 minutes to discuss procedural matters before returning to the courtroom.

"The reports have come back from the two doctors," Glass said. She said the two court-appointed doctors "have found Mr. Desai to be not competent."

Glass said that, as in other cases where there is a "not competent" finding, Desai would be sent to Lake's Crossing, the state's forensic mental hospital, to see if they can restore his competency.

Glass said Desai, who is out on $1 million bail, has to be taken into custody "because the only way to get to Lake's Crossing is through the jail, as an inmate, and transported by the jail to Lake's Crossing."

Glass said that because there is no forensic mental hospital in Clark County, Desai will be put on a waiting list with others who need to be transported to Lake's Crossing.

"No one will be bumped out of order in order to have Dr. Desai go," Glass said. "Dr. Desai will be sent there in the order in which he gets on the list to be transported."

Glass said she wanted to make sure Desai has turned in his passport to the court. Wright said that he would see that was done.

"The other thing that I'm requiring is that Dr. Desai, between now and the time he is to surrender to me in this court, is not to travel outside of Clark County," Glass said.

She said that all of the court documentation concerning Desai's competency tests in Las Vegas will be sent to Lake's Crossing.

"What I suspect will then happen is that Dr. Desai will remain at Lake's Crossing until the doctors at Lake's Crossing make a determination that he is either competent, and will be returned back to us, or incompetent without probability and then we'll get a notice of that."

If Lake's Crossing finds him incompetent, prosecutors will probably challenge that finding, she said. And if he is found to be competent, the defense will probably challenge that finding, Glass said.

Desai stared straight ahead and did not respond to a reporter's questions as he left the court. His attorney, Richard Wright, said he had no comment.

Staudaher said the evaluation at Lake's Crossing will probably take several months.

Besides the nine hepatitis cases linked to Desai's clinic, the Southern Nevada Health District said more than 100 other patients were infected during 2007-2008. The outbreak prompted health officials to recommend testing for hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV to about 50,000 patients. The Health District said patients might have been infected when nurses and other staff members reused syringes on endoscopy patients.

The Health District also notified all patients who had undergone procedures at the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada between March 2004 and January 2008 that they were at risk for possible exposure.

Desai, who faces several medical malpractice suites from patients who say they contracted hepatitis C at his Las Vegas clinics, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

In February, he surrendered his state medical license after having a series of health problems, including several strokes. He had practiced medicine since 1980.

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy