Health

Saturday, Mar 02 2013 04:00 PM

Tupac's attorney releases statement, expects dentist will be "fully vindicated"

BY CHRISTINE BEDELL AND RACHEL COOK Californian staff writers cbedell@bakersfield.com, rcook@bakersfield.com

The attorney for a dentist accused of gross negligence in treating patients said in a statement Friday that he and his client are "pleased with the progress" of an administrative hearing on the allegations this past week and that they "look forward to presenting Dr. (Robert) Tupac's side of the story" when it resumes later this year.

"We expect Dr. Tupac will be fully vindicated at the conclusion of the evidence in this matter," Jason Friedman wrote in an email.

An accusation filed by the state Attorney General's office on behalf of the Dental Board of California alleges that Tupac fitted patients with improper-sized implants, altered patient records, billed a patient for an implant he never delivered and allowed dental assistants to do work beyond the parameters of their license.

All week Friedman has declined to comment to The Californian on the proceedings so far. He chose not to give an opening statement at the hearing.

On Friday Friedman told the newspaper it would be inappropriate to delve into the issues while the hearing is still pending, but he offered a written statement with some analysis.

Friedman wrote that the "Investigation and Accusation in this matter originated from a local competitor of Dr. Tupac's."

He appeared to be referring to longtime Bakersfield dentist and onetime Tupac friend Robert Reed, who filed a complaint against Tupac with the dental board after filling in for Tupac when Tupac went on medical leave.

Friedman intimated while cross-examining witnesses during the hearing that Reed at least in part reported Tupac after some sort of billing dispute between the two. The exact details were unclear, but it appeared a patient that both dentists treated paid Tupac, thinking that covered the work done, but not Reed.

Reed has been adamant that he filed the complaint after he saw disturbing practices and patient outcomes when he filled in for Tupac, and feared for the safety of his community.

Friedman also wrote in his statement that the "first patient involved in this matter corroborated Dr. Tupac's position that the problems she suffered were caused by an inherent biological condition rather than any of the dental techniques employed by Dr. Tupac," referring to Sheila Rios.

Tupac's former patient Rios of Squaw Valley testified that childhood epilepsy left her with bad teeth but that Tupac told her she was an excellent candidate for implants and nothing in her health history made her a bad candidate for the dental work.

She clearly felt Tupac was responsible for the many problems she had with the temporary and permanent teeth he placed in her mouth.

Friedman said in his statement that another patient, clearly referring to Rick Lawhon of Bakersfield, still has 12 "healthy, stable and functional" implants from Tupac. Dental implants are the devices that support restorations that resemble teeth.

But Lawhon testified that the temporary and permanent teeth he received from Tupac repeatedly broke or fell out and he eventually spent $35,000 to have his teeth work redone by Reed.

In the statement, Friedman also wrote that the "Deputy Attorney General has failed to prove any of the other allegations in her Accusation."

Tupac has been present during all of the proceedings in downtown Los Angeles. He has been largely stoic, periodically conversing with his attorney under whispers.

The hearing ended Thursday after the administrative law judge presiding became ill. The hearing will likely resume in the summer or fall.

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