David Brooks is being held in solitary confinement at the federal detention center in Queens and is refusing to take medication prescribed by prison doctors, according to testimony at a hearing Monday in federal court in Central Islip.
Brooks, who is on trial for allegedly looting his former Westbury-based body-armor company, DHB Industries, was transferred to the detention center two weeks ago from the Nassau County jail after correction officers at the East Meadow facility found him attempting to smuggle 23 tablets of Ativan, a tranquilizer, into the prison in his underwear and conceal a pen in a body cavity, according to officials and sources.
The hearing was held at the request of Brooks' attorneys, who maintain that without the Ativan, Brooks, who they say has a history of panic attacks, will suffer them again and be unfit to take part in his defense. Brooks also has said he needs the sleep-inducing medication Ambien to rest.
Brooks' psychiatrist, Michael Liebowitz, testified that he has treated Brooks off and on for 20 years, and found that Ativan is the most effective medication for his problems, even though he has prescribed it in much higher doses than recommended by the Food and Drug Administration.
Liebowitz said that certain people can tolerate higher dosages of the drug - whose common side effects include dizziness, weakness and unsteadiness - and that he felt that what he prescribed for Brooks was medically appropriate.
Liebowitz, a retired professor at Columbia medical school and an executive with a drug-testing company in Manhattan, said the failure to prescribe Ativan could have serious health consequences for Brooks and was "a dangerous course to take."
Under questioning by one of Brooks' attorneys, Laurence Shtasel, Liebowitz said the three medications that a prison psychiatrist had prescribed for Brooks -- Buspar and Vistaril for anxiety and the antidepressant Celexa -- were of different chemical classes than Ativan, and would not be effective.
Liebowitz acknowledged that Brooks has become physically and psychologically dependent on Ativan, but declined under questioning by Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Ott to say that he was "addicted" to the drug.
Part of the prison medical regime apparently was to wean Brooks from his dependence on Ativan, Ott said.
Ott read into the court record portions of Brooks' recent medical file from the detention center that said Brooks' vital signs were normal despite his not taking any medication.
At the conclusion of the hearing late Monday, Magistrate Kathleen Tomlinson said she would make recommendations soon on how to treat Brooks to U.S. District Judge Joanna Seybert, who is overseeing Brooks' criminal trial.