Accused surgeon may seek diversion

Becky Campbell • Jan 4, 2012 at 10:25 PM

A heart surgeon who investigators said used his surgical team to get narcotics for him will apparently seek diversion at a hearing next month in Washington County Criminal Court.

Dr. William Walker, 54, was fired from his job as a cardiothoracic surgeon at Johnson City Medical Center last year after an investigation began into allegations of his writing prescriptions to other medical staff who gave the drugs to him.

Walker was indicted on 34 counts of obtaining narcotics by fraud in November. He was in court Wednesday with his attorney, Tom Jessee. The case was reset for Feb. 15 and Jessee told Judge Lynn Brown he would be prepared for a hearing that day.

Brown said he understood there would be an issue involving diversion.

With no criminal background, Walker is eligible for judicial diversion, something only a judge can grant. It would require Walker to plead guilty to the charges and complete a term of probation before the charges could be expunged from his record.

District Attorney General Tony Clark indicated he will oppose diversion in the case.

Walker’s drug scheme apparently dates back to 2008. He allegedly used three surgical employees — a physician’s assistant, a cardiac nurse and a surgical tech — Clark said. The investigation began after the hospital noticed Walker’s high prescription activity.

“They cooperated with us. They basically said he came to them and said he needed them to do this for him,” Clark said last year after Walker was charged.

Clark said the drugs were for Walker’s personal use.

Walker was never arrested in the case, but instead was served a criminal summons and later had to report to the Washington County Detention Center to be booked into the jail. He was released after the processing.

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