Prosecutors from the state Attorney General’s office say that a Hempfield doctor should not be permitted to withdraw a no-contest plea entered earlier this year to a murder charge.
Edgar Peske, 80, was charged two years ago with drug delivery resulting in death in connection with the 2015 overdose death of Nicole Henderson, 30, of Unity. Police said Henderson died after the doctor prescribed her 100 methadone pills.
His no contest plea to the drug delivery count, as well as felony charges of the administration of a controlled substance by a practitioner and Medicaid fraud, are considered convictions under state law.
Just days after prosecutors filed court documents in which they said they would ask a Westmoreland County judge to sentence Peske to more than six years in prison, lawyers for the doctor countered and said their client now insists he is innocent of the drug delivery charge.
Deputy Attorney Generals Jeffrey Baxter and Mary Summer Ford Carroll on Friday in a court filing said Peske is only seeking to withdraw his plea as a delay tactic.
“In the time since the defendant entered a plea there has been absolutely no change in information or circumstances that have come to the attention of the defendant. Rather, since entering a plea the defendant has repeatedly delayed justice with repeated postponements of the sentencing and is further delaying justice with a motion for withdrawal of plea,” prosecutors wrote.
Peske is scheduled to appear Aug. 30 before Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court Judge Tim Krieger for a hearing on the request to withdraw the no-contest plea.
Defense attorneys Brian Aston and Ken Noga last month said Peske contends his patient would not have died had she properly taken her medication and that she likely had suicidal tendencies that led to her death.
Prosecutors said the defense’s theory of the case does not absolve Peske of the crimes.
“If the defendant wrote a prescription for a controlled substance, in this case, Methadone, in a manner that no responsible segment of the medical profession would find appropriate and the victim died, he is guilty of that charge,” prosecutors said.
Investigators contended Henderson had been a longtime patient of Peske’s and that he knew she had a history of addiction.
Henderson was one several patients who were prescribed a total of more than 104,000 pills by Peske in the previous 22 months, police said. One patient, according to court records, was prescribed 30 pills a day of the painkiller oxycodone.