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Long Island

In LIRR disability fraud case, ex-consultant may testify in own defense

Marie Baran, the former consultant now on trial in the Long Island Rail Road disability fraud case, may take the witness stand in her own defense, her attorney said Thursday.

"I believe that will be the case," defense attorney Joey Jackson of Manhattan said to U.S. District Court Judge Victor Marrero when asked if his client planned to testify.

Baran, of East Meadow, is on trial with Dr. Peter Lesniewski, of Rockville Centre, and former LIRR conductor and union leader Joseph Rutigliano, of Holtsville. They are charged with being part of an extensive disability-fraud scheme, which authorities say went on for years and doled out tens of millions of dollars in payments.

Before becoming a consultant to railroad retirees seeking disability payments, Baran had worked as the district manager of the federal Railroad Retirement Board in Westbury, the agency that handles disability benefits.

Lesniewski's attorney Thomas Durkin indicated that his client was still undecided on whether to testify, while Rutigliano's counsel Joseph Ryan indicated his client would not take the stand.

After a full day of testimony Thursday, assistant U.S. Attorney Nicole Friedlander told Marrero the government could wrap up its case Monday. Separately, Marrero indicated to jurors that the entire trial testimony, and possibly summations, could be completed by next Friday.

Dr. Alton Barron, an orthopedics specialist at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center in Manhattan, and a government expert witness, testified Thursday that a number of the injury diagnoses made by Lesniewski about Rutigliano and Steven Gagliano, a retired LIRR employee, seemed cursorily done, with little or none of the diagnostic tests that would have been expected being performed.

Barron noted that if Rutigliano had the conditions Lesniewski said existed, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, Rutigliano wouldn't have been able to play golf, as prosecutors contend he did.

"Your club may go into your friend's head," said Barron on how the condition would weaken a golfer's grip.

Barron testified that his medical records review showed that there was no indication Lesniewski carried out the kind of treatment needed for a severe meniscal tear that supposedly existed in Rutigliano's knee.After court adjourned, defense attorney Josh Dratel said that Barron's assertions would be challenged on cross examination Friday.

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