COMMENTS ABOUT SHERI FINK BY RICHARD SIMMONS** (ATTORNEY FOR DR. ANNA POU)
After Dr. Pou rejected Ms. Fink’s offer to “tell her story”, Fink masqueraded as a Dr. Pou supporter and, financially sponsored by powerful media forces in order to produce a sensational story with the backdrop of the Katrina tragedy for over two years. The latter portion of Ms. Fink’s book is told through the eyes of disgruntled Attorney General Foti’s prosecution team who lied to defense counsel and participated in a media circus arrest of Dr. Pou and the two nurses. As a part of Foti’s Revenge they leaked information, out of context, in violation of Louisiana Supreme Court Orders. Media Justice by lies and leaks is a denial of justice.
[New Orleans attorney and former Federal Prosecutor Richard “Rick” Simmons was retained by Dr. Anna Pou in October 2005, to represent her in the early days of the State’s investigation into the tragic deaths at Memorial Hospital over the next three years. Simmons interacted with Dr. Pou daily, as well as with dozens of other doctors, nurses, Memorial patients, family members, federal and state investigators and even the Attorney General himself. Simmons knows better than anyone else who was not telling the true story of what happened at Memorial Hospital.]
MISLED IN THE BEGINNING AND MISQUOTED IN THE END
Throughout my representation of Dr. Pou in the civil and criminal proceedings following Katrina, Dr. Pou has consistently rejected numerous offers from noted journalists who wanted to “tell her story”. She has always rejected such offers because she did not want to capitalize on the human suffering of many patients and their families at Memorial. After her request to write a book with Dr. Pou’s direct engagement and participation was rejected, Ms. Fink began to masquerade as a fellow doctor in support of Dr. Pou and her successful disaster medicine legislative reform, and to attend fundraisers and rallies for Dr. Pou in an effort to gain access as Pou's friend and acquaintance.
Sheri Fink only talked to Dr. Pou about two subjects: disaster medicine and the very general conditions of the hospital during the storm. Ms. Fink never interviewed Dr. Pou regarding the actual events which took place at the hospital, about Dr. Pou’s role in caring for patients nor about the many patient treatments which are outlined in her book. What Ms. Fink purports to know regarding the events at Memorial, and what she promotes in her book, are largely based on hearsay, and unattributed third-party comments. None of the statements that have ever been tested, verified or refuted in court.
Despite Dr. Pou’s firm rejection of Ms. Fink’s interest in a book deal, Fink pursued Dr. Pou like a school girl with a crush, following Dr. Pou to events in Houston, Baton Rouge, Chicago, and New Orleans, nearly anywhere Dr. Pou appeared.
On the eve of the publication of her New York Times article, “Deadly Choices,” in 2009, Fink requested a meeting with Dr. Pou, allegedly to “fact check” information obtained from her very limited earlier meeting with Dr. Pou. Instead, Ms. Fink attempted to turn the “fact checking” into another interview wherein Ms. Fink stated that she would say certain things in her article unless we provided her additional comments we had previously refused to provide. Dr. Pou refused to be “blackmailed” and ultimately terminated the “fact checking” session to Ms. Fink’s obvious frustration and bitter disappointment.
On the eve of the publication of her new book, Ms. Fink once again attempted to contact Dr. Pou. (Given the fact that her book was already written, edited and slated for print, it is clear that she and her publisher were merely “checking the box” and had no real interest in Dr. Pou’s comments or participation at that late date). Because of our prior experience, we rejected any further contact with Fink or her publishers both of whom are merely interested in obtaining fame and financial gain on the heels of human suffering during the Katrina tragedy.
ATTORNEY GENERAL FOTI’S REVENGE
In the second half of the book Ms. Fink tells the "story" through the eyes of Foti's cheif prosecuter (Butch Schafer) and his lead investigator (Virginia Rider). Sadly, Schafer and Rider lied to me and to the attorney for the two nurses on the eve of their arrest. Upon learning of official inquiries made by the Attorney General’s staff regarding Dr. Pou’s work schedule, and also of a planned Attorney General’s press conference, I placed calls to both Rider and Schafer and confronted them with this information. In turn, they falsely stated that an arrest was not imminent, that our self-surrender agreement was still intact, and further denied that the upcoming press conference had anything to do with Memorial Hospital, stating it would only deal with a nursing home in New Orleans. Ms. Fink recounted this conversation through the eyes of Schaefer writing that he replied:
“No, not right now”, he said some what honestly.
No, Ms. Fink, it was not an honest statement, but a blatant lie.
Based upon these deliberate deceptions to mask their true intentions, I advised Dr. Pou that she could continue with her planned surgeries for the week of July 17, 2006. While Rider and Schafer now disclaim participation in the Attorney General’s tactic, both stood next to Foti at the news conference where Foti proclaimed that Dr. Pou and her nurse colleagues were under arrest and that Pou and the nurses had “pretended they were God”. This sensational news conference was followed two days later by Foti’s appearance at his own political campaign fundraiser where he shamelessly promoted his arrests of Pou and the owners of St. Rita’s nursing home in St. Bernard Parish as the crowning achievement of his term in office. (Less than a year later, voters thought otherwise, summarily defeating Foti by a large margin and electing a lesser known District Attorney).
The next day, I bluntly told the press that Foti’s representatives had lied to me but refused to give the names of the individuals, commenting that instructions or permission to lie had obviously come from the top (Foti). Today, I am not so sure. Once prosecutors lose their perspective and justify their own lies, they lose their authority as a representative of the people.
If Rider and Schafer were not central to the media circus and arrest, they should have had the moral fortitude to stand up to this tactic and say it was wrong at the time. Their participation in Fink’s book is a central and well-orchestrated part of Foti’s Revenge as a “tale” told by a frustrated prosecution team and it should be discounted for what it is worth.
Under Foti, Schafer and Rider were part of a Medicare fraud unit, which was well trained in that area, but ill equipped to deal with what they tried to turn into a homicide case. In addition to being part of a biased and unethical prosecution, they circumvented the homicide investigators in the New Orleans District Attorney’s office in favor of retaining a forensic pathologist who demonstrated a classic conflict of interest via his dual role as a forensic expert commentator for CNN.
While it is true that Fink has spent a great deal of time interviewing individuals and obtaining documentation, I, too, have spent years on this case. I inspected the hospital at the beginning of the investigation, I obtained documentation from the two hospital entities (LifeCare and Tenet), I Interviewed and obtained statements from hundreds of people, reviewed the forensic data, and expended extensive time with experts for both the state and the defense. Thousands of hours of time on this case qualifies me to render the following opinion:
Ms. Fink’s spin as to euthanasia in “Five Days at Memorial” is an insult to the brave actions of the doctors, nurses and other medical personnel who stayed with the patients to the end, exercising their best medical judgment under these trying circumstances. Just as bad as discrediting their sacrifice and work, is the disruption of closure for many of the patients’ families who are once again told by a journalist seeking fame and financial gain that their loved ones were murdered. Ms. Fink has it wrong. In their bitter hearts and their state of retirement, Butch Schafer and Virginia Rider know that too.
JULY 24 2007 10:12AM DR ANNA POU AND HER ATTORNEY, RICHARD SIMMONS, HOLD A PRESS CONFERENCE AFTER THE GRAND JURY REFUSED TO INDICT DR POU ON MURDER CHARGES
(PHOTO BY BILL HABER, AP PERMISSION)