A doctor at a New York City pain clinic — already accused of writing prescriptions for a man convicted in a fatal pharmacy holdup — pleaded not guilty Thursday to manslaughter charges alleging that he caused the overdose deaths of two other patients.
Dr. Stan Li, of Hamilton, N.J., was released on $750,000 bond after entering the plea in state court in Manhattan.
According to an indictment unsealed on Thursday, Li prescribed more than 500 pills to a 21-year-old man in the five weeks leading up to the discovery of his body in a parked car in Queens in 2010.
Inside the car was a bottle of Xanax containing only 35 of 90 tablets that had been dispensed just three days earlier. An autopsy determined the cause of death was acute intoxication caused by a combination of Xanax and oxycodone.
In the other death, authorities allege that Li continued writing prescriptions for a 37-year-old Long Island patient even though it was clear his health was failing. He overdosed in 2009 after getting 500 pills in the last month of his life.
Authorities said they believe it's the first time a physician has been charged in New York with manslaughter in an overdose death.
Following Li's arraignment, Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan said Li was criminally negligent because he ignored obvious signs the men were addicted and never cut them off or got them help. Instead, he prescribed painkillers and other drugs in combinations and dosages that are known to be dangerous.
"A doctor shouldn't be facilitating the deaths of people," Brennan said. "People go to a doctor to get well."
The 58-year-old physician faces a maximum sentence of up to 15 years in prison on the manslaughter counts in the indictment. Other counts include reckless endangerment, criminal sale of a prescription drug and fraud.
Li previously pleaded not guilty to peddling prescriptions to addicts and drug dealers from a Queens weekend clinic where he saw as many as 120 patients a day, moonlighting from his full-time job as an anesthesiologist at a New Jersey hospital. Patients were required to pay cash for visits.
One of Li's patients, David Laffer, shot and killed two employees and two customers while holding up a Long Island pharmacy for painkillers in June 2011. Authorities have said Li provided 24 prescriptions filled by Laffer.
Laffer is serving a life sentence for murder.