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Casper doctor asks appeals court to reverse drug distribution case on basis of faulty warrant
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Casper doctor asks appeals court to reverse drug distribution case on basis of faulty warrant

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A former Casper doctor on Monday asked a federal appeals court to reverse his convictions of 21 felonies, arguing that investigators improperly interpreted a search warrant that was used to seize money, guns and patients’ files.

The doctor, Shakeel Kahn, 53, argued in the filing that when federal agents raided an Arizona home, seizing cash and sports cars, they went beyond the bounds of a magistrate’s authorization and violated a Fourth Amendment requirement that search warrants specify what evidence law enforcement seeks.

Kahn also argues in the filing that his convictions should be invalidated because search warrants used to seize patient files in both Arizona and Wyoming were granted without proper support from investigators’ statements of evidence, jury instructions misstated law pertaining to his responsibility for an Arizona woman’s overdose death and a Drug Enforcement Administration agent’s testimony about the doctor’s incarceration violated his right to a presumption of innocence. The arguments are the first Kahn has made to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which hears challenges to convictions in federal courts that include Wyomings’, since a jury’s May findings.

That jury — which met in Casper’s federal courthouse for the nearly monthlong trial — found the doctor guilty of all 21 felonies he faced, while also including an enhancement holding him responsible for the 2015 death of an Arizona woman. Among the convictions was a count of engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise, on which prosecutors said a doctor had never before been convicted. In August, Judge Alan Johnson sentenced Kahn to 25 years imprisonment. And, after a series of extension’s to the doctor’s appeal deadlines, defense lawyers submitted on Monday the request and its supporting documents, totaling 111 pages.

The bulk of the doctor’s arguments are dedicated to a series of challenges to the warrants used to search his houses in Fort Mohave, Arizona, and on Thorndike Avenue in Casper, as well as Vape World, a business he owned on 12th Street in Casper. Chicago defense lawyers Beau Brindley — who represented Kahn at trial — and Blair Westover argue that a magistrate issued the Arizona warrant even though an investigator did not supply a legally sufficient connection between the home and the investigation. Separate warrants issued in Wyoming relied on outdated information taken from a wiretap and — by allowing the seizure of cash without a specific link to the Casper house — were unduly broad, the defense team argued.

“Many homes have some amount of cash in them,” the defense lawyers wrote. “Unless there is reason to believe that the large sum of cash sought by the government would be found in Dr. Kahn’s Wyoming residence, it seems patently unreasonable to allow the government to search any home of anyone suspected of profiting from a crime.”

Because the Arizona warrant did not specify an interest in seizing cash, cars or guns, when federal agents seized $1 million cash, five vehicles and about 40 guns from the house, they went beyond the bounds of the law, Kahn’s lawyers argued.

Although the trial judge ruled against prosecutors on the cars, he ruled in favor of law enforcement’s seizure of the cash and guns when prosecutors argued the evidence was in plain view and obviously evidence of a crime. Kahn in the Monday filing argued, however, that federal agents at the time of the search did not have good reason to believe that every dollar Kahn had was necessarily linked to crime. He asked the appeals court to find all the evidence in question should have been kept from trial jurors.

“By taking it upon themselves to seize those high-ticket items which they thought might constitute proceeds, agents grossly exceeded the scope of the warrant,” Kahn’s lawyers wrote in the appeal. “The only means of deterring that conduct is to suppress all the evidence gathered during the search. Otherwise officers have no disincentive not to seize suspect proceeds in any search.”

Defense lawyers also asked the appellate court to find that Johnson should have provided jurors an instruction that would have allowed them to find the doctor not guilty if he had a reasonable, but incorrect, belief that he was prescribing pills appropriately. They also asked the 10th Circuit to reverse its precedent that a doctor can be convicted for either prescribing outside the scope of professional practice or without legitimate medical purpose.

The defense team argues that the 10th Circuit’s holding should instead align with a different federal circuit that requires jurors to find both that a defendant prescribed outside of usual professional practices and without a legitimate reason.

When a DEA agent mentioned at while testifying at trial that investigators were monitoring the doctor’s jail calls, he let jurors know that Kahn had been incarcerated awaiting trial. By doing so, he infringed on Kahn’s right to be presumed innocent by jurors, the defense team argued. All of the doctor’s complaints, defense lawyers argue, entitle him to reversal of his convictions and a new trial.

The doctor’s brother, Nabeel, 47, who is serving a 15-year sentence in a Minnesota prison for his conviction on two felonies at the same trial, has indicated that he will likewise appeal the case. His arguments are due in late April.

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Crime and Courts Reporter

Shane Sanderson is a Star-Tribune reporter who primarily covers criminal justice. Sanderson is a proud University of Missouri graduate. Lately, he’s been reading Cormac McCarthy and cooking Italian food. He writes about his own life in his free time.

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