LOS ANGELES — A California doctor charged with murder in the drug deaths of three young men knew that three of her other patients had died earlier from overdoses, a prosecutor said Monday at the opening of a preliminary hearing.
Dr. Hsui-Ying "Lisa" Tseng sat at the counsel table clad in an orange jail jumpsuit with shackles at her ankles as the first witness, her former office receptionist, testified about the workings of her busy medical office in Rowland Heights.
During the abbreviated session, Deputy District Attorney John Niedermann cited the other deaths, which he said would show a pattern of behavior by Tseng.
He said she was notified of the other deaths in 2007 and 2008.
"It put her on notice that the prescriptions she was providing were leading to deaths," he said.
No charges were filed in those earlier drug overdoses, but the prosecution seeks to use them as evidence against Tseng, who is charged in the deaths of three young men who allegedly overdosed after receiving prescriptions from her for painkillers and anti-anxiety medications. She is charged with second-degree murder and could be sentenced to 45 years to life in prison if convicted.
Tseng has pleaded not guilty to 24 felony counts. Authorities allege she wrote more than 27,000 prescriptions over a three-year period. She is among only a handful of doctors nationwide to be charged with murder related to prescription drugs.
Tseng was represented by five attorneys, an indication of the seriousness of the case.
She has been in custody since her arrest in March. She is being held on $3 million bail in spite of her attorneys' previous arguments that she is a mother of small children who has ties to her community. The judge refused to reduce her bail at that time.
In the courtroom audience was the mother of one of the young men who died. April Rovero's son, Joey, died after receiving prescriptions from Tseng. The 21-yearold University of Arizona student drove to California with friends to get prescriptions from Tseng in 2009.
April Rovero founded the National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse. She promised to be in court every day.