INDIO - Jurors are expected to resume deliberations this morning in the trial of a Coachella Valley-area physician who previously admitted stealing patients' identities to acquire pain pills for herself, but is still facing charges of filing two false documents.
Dr. Lisa Michelle Barden, 41, pleaded guilty on Dec. 15 to 274 felony counts related to using patients' identities and other doctors' prescription pads to obtain thousands of highly addictive painkillers over a period of many months.
However, she decided to fight two other counts involving the alleged filings of a false workers' compensation report for $62,000 and a false police report.
Sentencing for the counts to which Barden has admitted guilt is on hold pending the outcome of the 10-day trial at the Palm Springs Superior Court.
A verdict could come as early as today, with the jury having put in a half-day of deliberations on Friday before leaving for the court's three-day weekend.
The physician, who remains free on bail, stole 15 patients' identities and faked other doctors' signatures to obtain Vicodin and Oxycontin pills, according to prosecutors.
Barden was arrested on Jan. 29, 2009, following a yearlong investigation by the California Department of Justice's Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement and the Riverside Regional Pharmaceutical Narcotic Enforcement Team.
The task force was a cooperative effort of the state Department of Insurance's fraud division and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
According to investigators who followed her between February 2007 and December 2008, Barden illegally acquired more than 30,000 pills, primarily hydrocodone, or Vicodin, and oxycodone, or OxyContin. Such drugs typically are indicated for treatment of pain, but also can induce euphoria and reduce anxiety.
The Rancho Cucamonga resident, also known as Lisa Degner, worked at several Palm Springs medical clinics. Barden visited 43 pharmacies on 131 occasions to get her drugs, according to BNE investigators.
She became the focus of an investigation after several pharmacists alleged that she was showing up to retrieve prescriptions under different names.