A Baldwin Harbor doctor was "a lonely guy" who illegally prescribed the painkiller oxycodone to drug-addicted patients to win their friendship, a federal prosecutor charged Monday.
But his defense attorney claimed that Dr. Leonard Stambler was "not a lonely person, but a caring person" who legally used his medical judgment in prescribing the drug to relieve the pain of patients.
The conflicting views of Stambler were offered Monday at the opening of the doctor's trial in federal district court in Central Islip by Eastern District prosecutor Allen Bodie and defense attorney Gary Schoer, of Syosset.
Stambler was arrested in November of 2011 by federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents and charged with conspiracy to distribute oxycodone and possession of the drug.
Assistant United States Attorney Bodie said Stambler was "a drug dealer [but] a special type of drug dealer -- a doctor."
Stambler "didn't have any friends" and had such a marginal practice that he did not have an office or a staff, Bodie said, adding that he befriended addicts by giving them prescriptions for excessive quantities of oxycodone. The doctor knew the patients illegally sold and shared the drug, the prosecutor said.
One of the patients was a woman who would cook his meals and spend "hours on the phone to talk about his personal life," Bodie said.
Another patient was prescribed increasing doses of oxycodone even after he was "hopelessly addicted" and so high on the drug that he got into an automobile accident and was arrested by the police, the prosecutor said.
Stambler even suggested that one of his patients go into New York City where he could sell an oxycodone tablet for $30 instead of the $10 or $20 on Long Island, Bodie said.
Schoer, however, said that while his client's medical practice may have been "unusual, it was not criminal . . . He may not have been a good doctor, but he was always acting as a doctor" and using his best professional judgment.
Stambler had only 40 to 50 patients a month, frequently not taking any money from them, and at times prescribing medications to block oxycodone addiction, Schoer said.
"As long as they told him they were in pain," he might prescribe oxycodone, Schoer said, adding there is no real test to determine how much pain a person is in. "A doctor has to believe what a patient tells you," Schoer said.
Stambler was the first doctor who allegedly illegally sold drug oxycodone on Long Island to go to trial since an intensive federal crackdown in 2011, officials say. Two have pleaded guilty and two are awaiting trial, the officials say.
If convicted Stambler faces up to 20 years in prison. The trial before U.S. District Judge Joseph Bianco is expected to take two weeks.