Pain pill doctor on trial for manslaughter recalls David Laffer visits

Dr. Stan Xuhui Li walks from the State

Dr. Stan Xuhui Li walks from the State Supreme Court building in Lower Manhattan Friday, June 20, 2014. Far right is Li's attorney Raymond Belair. (Credit: Craig Ruttle)

Accused pain-prescription peddler Dr. Stan Xuhui Li drew laughs from the jury Friday at his Manhattan manslaughter trial as he described one of the stories Medford pharmacy killer David Laffer told to get more pills.

Li, a New Jersey anesthesiologist, is charged with causing the deaths of two men and wrongfully okaying painkillers from his Queens clinic for 20 individuals including Laffer, who later killed four people in a 2011 robbery.

As he neared the end of a week of questioning from his lawyer, Li described interactions with Laffer that included a visit in early 2011 in which the patient claimed he needed a new supply of opioids two weeks early because other pills had fallen in the toilet.

Li, turning to the jury, said he was quizzical about how it could have happened, telling Laffer, "You don't take pills in the toilet!" Jurors, who have not been told about Laffer's rampage, laughed.

The doctor said he gave Laffer a new prescription after getting a plausible explanation. "He explained he put the medication on top of the medicine cabinet and it fell," Li testified.

Li, 60, has been on trial since April 2 for manslaughter in the deaths of Joseph Haeg of East Moriches and another man, reckless endangerment of seven patients and illegally selling prescriptions to Laffer and 19 others. Seven of the 20 died of overdoses, but prosecutors say Li's practice was a gold mine.

He took the stand June 13 in his own defense, and has maintained that he only gave prescriptions in good faith to people he thought were in pain and had a medical need, laboriously walking the jury entry by entry through the medical records of Laffer and others.

Li faces cross-examination on Monday. He finished his weeklong direct testimony Friday by telling jurors that even when he felt patients were lying to get more pills he had a duty to help them deal with their pain, and if he discharged patients he had an obligation to give them something to tide them over.

"Discharging a patient would do nothing for the patient's pain," he said.

Li's records showed that Laffer first came to see him in October 2009, reporting knee and jaw pain, and saw him 24 times between then and June 2011, receiving regular prescriptions for Norco and Vicodin, which contain hydrocodone.

Li said Laffer had asked for prescriptions early prior to using the toilet explanation. In December 2010, for example, he came in to get a new 30-day supply a week early by saying his next appointment would fall on Christmas Day.

The last time he saw Laffer, Li said, was June 11, 2011. He gave him two prescriptions after Laffer showed him a picture of a crumpled car and said he was suffering fresh neck and back pain. Laffer's drug-robbery at the pharmacy came eight days later. In 2011, Newsday reported that from 2007 to 2011 Li gave Laffer 24 prescriptions, making him the leader among 29 medical professionals who wrote him 104 scrips.

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