Judge: Trial of Former Casper Doctor Shakeel Kahn Will be in Casper
The trial of former Casper doctor Shakeel Kahn and co-defendants in an alleged multi-state prescription drug conspiracy will occur in late April in Casper after all, a federal court judge ruled Wednesday.
The case against started in Casper in late 2016 and was assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Alan Johnson in Cheyenne.
In June 2017, the prosecution and defense wanted the trial held in Casper for convenience, and Johnson agreed.
In December 2018, Shakeel Kahn, joining his wife and co-defendant Lyn Kahn in another motion, changed their minds.
They asked Johnson to move the trial to Cheyenne because of the convenience for the defendants and prosecutors. Moreover, they alleged adverse publicity will thwart a fair trial for them, according to Kahn's motion. "The impression now in Natrona County is that Dr. Kahn is a mobster who employs violent methods to intimidate witnesses and law enforcement and that he has a criminal empire stretching several states."
Wednesday, Johnson rejected both arguments.
Holding the trial in Casper, the judge wrote, will be more convenient because the U.S. Marshals Service can keep three of the defendants -- Kahn, his brother Nabeel Kahn, and Paul Beland -- at the Natrona County Detention Center instead of having to daily take them to Cheyenne from Gering, Neb., where Shakeel and Nabeel Kahn are currently detained, and Beland where he's currently detained in Wheatland. Beland already has pleaded guilty in the case.
Regarding the pretrial publicity, Lyn and Shakeel Kahn included articles from Casper news media from the time of their arrests to people charged in state court who allegedly were involved in the federal case. Lyn Kahn added news articles and Facebook comments revealed the "'tribal attitudes prevalent in Casper.'"
Johnson agreed that some of the comments are unflattering, but he wrote they don't rise to the level of being so prejudicial that she could not receive a fair trial.
He added, "The news articles by themselves do little to suggest unfair prejudice."
The comments on the articles do show religious bias against the Kahns and "a complete misunderstanding of the criminal justice system," such as the concept of "innocent unless proven guilty," Johnson wrote.
"Nonetheless, the Kahns have not shown these negative comments accurately reflect the attitude of Casper's jury pool," he wrote.
A jury pool for a federal trial in Casper is drawn from about half of Wyoming's counties, he added.
Citing another case about the effects of pretrial publicity, Johnson wrote, "The pretrial publicity relied upon by the Kahns has come nowhere near creating 'either a circus atmosphere in the court room or a lynch mob mentality such that it would be impossible to receive a fair trial.'"