Rocky Allen, the surgical technician who stands accused of stealing drugs that Swedish hospital, potentially infecting thousands of patients with Hepatitis C and HIV, stood for an arraignment today in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado.
The hearing to determine whether Mr. Allen would be held in custody pending trial, or released on bond, began with a private conference between the lawyers and the judge which was inaudible from the gallery. Following the conference the judge ruled that “we will be referring to it as a blood-borne pathogen and not as a medical condition.” This is the first hint that we have received in the public that Mr. Allen does in fact have a blood-borne illness.
The state presented evidence through the testimony of Special Agent Berg, who is the lead investigator in the Rocky Allen case. Agent Burg testified that a witness who was in Operating Room Five at Swedish hospital on January 22, 2016, saw Mr. Allen enter OR5 despite not being assigned to the room that day. The witness saw Mr. Allen taking a pre-loaded syringe of fentanyl intended for the patient and place it in his pants, then replace it with a syringe of an unknown substance. The replacement syringe has been tested, and it was definitively not fentanyl. What was actually in that syringe is not yet known, but is widely presumed to be saline solution.
That same witness had seen Mr. Allen appear to make another syringe swap earlier in the week, but Mr. Allen’s back was to the witness, and so she could not definitively tell if that was what he was doing. Upon realizing that this was in fact the second time she had seen Mr. Allen swap out a fentanyl syringe, she informed the anesthesiologist not to use the syringe, and reported it to a manager. It became clear that the syringe that was left on the anesthesiologist’s tray was not the syringe that he had drawn for the patient, because when the anesthesiologist compared labels, the dosage had mysteriously changed. It is also believe that these labels are typically dated, and possibly signed. When confronted by a manager, Mr. Allen said he was in the operating room, “just saying good morning like I always do.”
At this point, Rocky Allen was drug tested for cause, which came back positive for fentanyl and marijuana. Fentanyl remains in the bloodstream for only several hours after use. Representatives from Swedish then searched Rocky Allen’s locker, which contained nothing suspicious. However, a shelf nearby contained a syringe, three needles, and a stopper.
The testimony next turned to Mr. Allen’s employment history. Specifically his resumes submitted each of his previous health related places of employment, Honor John C. Lincoln Medical Center, Scripps Health, Banner Thunderbird Medical Center, and Northwest Hospital. At each location, he submitted a resume that did not include any other hospital employments, but listed as previous employment only his service in the United States Navy and CMC Contractor Corporation. The contact for verification of employment CMC turned out to be Mr. Allen’s boyfriend.
In actuality, Mr. Allen had been fired from Honor after he was found passed-out in the hospital and tested positive for fentanyl. He was fired from Banner after he was seen rifling through a container of bio-hazardous infectious sharps. It was believed that he was looking for syringes that may have still had remnants of Zofran. Mr. Allen was fired from Scripps because he was seen switching syringes in the operating room in the same manner as he was doing at Swedish. He was confronted and acknowledged swapping syringes at Scripps.
The government, represented by United States Attorney Jaime Peña, requested that Mr. Allen be held without bond. Mr. Allen’s public defender argued that because no evidence has been presented yet that any of the needles replaced by Mr. Allen had been “dirty,” there is no evidence that Mr. Allen has placed any member of the public risk, and therefore should be allowed to be released on bond. The public defender also pointed to Mr. Allen’s service in the United States Navy, including service as an operating room technician in Afghanistan, from which he suffers from PTSD, as evidence of his character and mitigating circumstances.
Mr. Allen was given a general discharge from the Navy, following military criminal proceedings apparently for similar opiate-related episodes. Judge Mix held the Navy proceedings to be irrelevant for the purpose of today’s hearing, and found that, lacking any evidence that the needles Mr. Allen put back on operating room tables had been reused, Mr. Allen should be remanded to a halfway house pending his trial. Judge Mix ordered that he complete substance abuse therapy, and that he not maintain or attempts to find employment in any healthcare, veterinary, or pharmaceutical related position.