A Baldwin doctor, clad in prison blue, entered a not guilty plea Friday in federal court in Central Islip to charges that he caused the death of two patients by overprescribing the painkiller oxycodone.
Dr. William Conway, 69, carried a brown file folder in his left hand and never looked toward the audience, where about a dozen supporters sat during his arraignment on two counts of distribution of a controlled substance causing death and other charges before U.S. District Court Judge Leonard Wexler.
Conway, who is being held without bail, was then led away by marshals. As his supporters left the ninth-floor courtroom, a confrontation erupted between them and a relative of Giovanni Manzella, one of the two alleged overdose victims.
A woman in the group was asking people to assemble outside the courthouse for a show of support when Patrick Arcese, 54, of Long Beach, turned to her and said in a loud voice: "Supporter? You killed my nephew. . . . This is a disgrace."
"What if he killed your son?" Arcese continued, jabbing his finger at the woman and about 10 other people clustered near the doctor's attorney, Richard M. Langone.
Other words were shouted, and Arcese moved toward the crowd. As he began to back away seconds later, Damon Morck, 41, of Rockville Centre, yelled at Arcese: "I'll be outside in 10 minutes."
Arcese later continued his criticism outside the courthouse. He left the area before Conway's supporters came out of the building.
"He prescribed 30 pills a day for my nephew. Can you believe that?" Arcese, a disabled construction worker, said as he walked out of the courthouse.
Morck, who works in real estate, said outside the courthouse that Conway had been his family's doctor for nearly 30 years.
"He did not make money off giving out prescriptions. He did it out of kindness and because these people expressed a need and showed a medical need for the medication," Morck said. "If they took the prescribed amount, they wouldn't have died. They're obviously abusing it."
The indictment charges that Conway prescribed 450 oxycodone pills to Manzella, 34, of Long Beach, less than 48 hours before his overdose death on April 23, 2011. Another patient, Christopher Basmas, 29, of Hicksville, overdosed on Oct. 27, 2011, two days after Conway wrote him a prescription for 180 oxycodone pills, prosecutors said.
The doctor wrote a total of 5,554 oxycodone prescriptions between January 2009 and November 2011 -- some of them for people he had never treated or even met, prosecutors said.
Conway's assistant of 20 years, Robert Hachemeister, 67, of Baldwin, also was charged last month with conspiracy and distribution of oxycodone. He is free on $150,000 bail.
Wexler set a new trial date of Jan. 22. Conway could face life in prison if convicted. Hachemeister could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.