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Former Santa Barbara Doctor Julio Diaz Withdraws Guilty Plea; Case Will Go to Trial

A judge decides Diaz hadn't been properly advised by his attorney when he pleaded guilty to overprescribing charges stemming from 11 patient deaths

A U.S. District Court judge allowed former Santa Barbara doctor Julio Diaz to withdraw his guilty plea of overprescribing powerful painkillers to patients, and the case will now go to trial. 

Diaz, who operated a medical practice on Milpas Street, pleaded guilty in January to federal charges of overprescribing that led to 11 patient deaths.

U.S. District Court Judge Cormac Carney allowed Diaz to withdraw those pleas, however, deciding that Diaz had not been properly advised on the case by his attorney at the time.

A federal affidavit accused Diaz of prescribing “profound” doses of drugs, including strong painkillers such as OxyContin, Fentanyl and Dilaudid, and he has been in federal custody since his arrest on Jan. 4, 2012.

Two families who lost loved ones to prescription drug overdose have settled civil lawsuits with local pharmacies and their pharmacists who filled Diaz's prescriptions.

Diaz has been represented by a handful of attorneys since the beginning of the case and his current attorney, Katherine Corrigan, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Noozhawk.  

At this point, Diaz is charged with 88 criminal counts, and there is no plea deal up for discussion, according to prosecutor Ann Wolf.

Those counts add up to nearly 1,500 years in potential prison time and millions of dollars in fines.

"Judge Carney felt that (the) defendant had not been advised by his counsel of the relevant conduct the court could consider in imposing sentence, specifically the 400 plus emergency room admissions and the 20 overdose deaths," Wolf said.

The next trial date set in the case is for May 19, 2015.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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