A federal judge is faced with an ethical decision, should Dr. William J. Zinnanti, a prolific medical researcher, be in the hospital laboratory or behind bars?
Both are on the table. Zinnanti, 42, now a pediatric neurology fellow at the Stanford University School of Medicine in California, has a tentative deal with prosecutors to plead guilty to a charge of introducing adulterated medical devices into interstate commerce. Zinnanti’s lawyer, Alan P. Caplan, said today that he hopes Zinnanti’s ongoing work in the medical research field dissuades Senior Judge William W. Caldwell from sending his client to jail. “Dr. Zinnanti is a brilliant doctor,” Caplan said during a phone interview from his Nevada office. “He has done some groundbreaking research in Pennsylvania and in California.
In a warning letter issued in September 2007, the FDA criticized Zinnanti for not instituting quality control measures it had demanded after a 2006 inspection. The agency claimed that a March 2007 inspection had found hair and other foreign particles in several pouches containing the pencils.A tentative plea agreement signed by Zinnanti and Smith’s office was filed simultaneously with the criminal charge. Terms of the agreement won’t be final unless sanctioned by a judge. In the agreement, Zinnanti agrees to plead guilty as charged. There is no guarantee regarding his sentence, although it states that Smith’s office can make a sentencing recommendation. Also, the agreement doesn’t protect any professional licenses, such as medical licensing, that Zinnanti holds. It states that the fate of such licensing “is solely within the discretion of the appropriate licensing authority.”