Jury acquits Homer woman on drug charges

A Homer jury last Tuesday, Sept. 17, acquitted a Homer woman on two felony drug charges and one misdemeanor theft charge.

In a seven-day jury trial held at the Homer Courthouse, and after deliberating about two-and-a-half hours, the jury found Michelle Hoyt, 43, not guilty of fourth- and third-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance and fourth-degree theft.

The charges stem from an incident on May 14 in which Hoyt picked up a prescription for another person’s Adderall, a controlled substance, when she picked up her own prescription medicines at Scotts Pharmacy. Hoyt asserted that a Scotts clerk gave her the other person’s prescription by mistake. Prosecutors alleged Hoyt manipulated the employee into giving her someone else’s prescription — the third-degree drug misconduct charge, for obtaining possession of a controlled substance “by misrepresentation and deception.”

In an affidavit by Homer Police Lt. Ryan Browning, Browning alleged that Hoyt used a Homer man’s name to get his prescription for Adderall while she picked up her own prescriptions. Adderall is an amphetamine drug used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy or sleep disorder. When abused, people take it to help them stay alert or awake longer.

When the man called to find out about his prescription, the pharmacy told him someone had picked it up. He hadn’t given anyone permission to do so. In order to get his prescription filled again, the man had to file a police report and did so on May 19. Browning investigated. Security cameras at Scotts Pharmacy recorded video, but not audio, of the pharmacy and counter area. According to the affidavit, Browning looked at one video of the transaction where a woman picked up the Adderall and her own prescriptions, and identified Hoyt through her association with Hoyt’s ex-husband, Randy Rosencrans, a retired Homer Police officer.

On May 20 Browning interviewed Hoyt. He told her she picked up the man’s prescription. He said Hoyt told him she didn’t know the man, and there must have been a mistake. Browning met Hoyt at her home and she gave him the medicine bag. Hoyt said she took the Vicodin out but hadn’t used the anti-viral medicine — both of which had been prescribed to her. Browning found her anti-viral medicine and the man’s pill bottle of Adderall, with all 60 pills still in it. Browning then arrested her.

The case hinged on two questions:

• What did Hoyt say to the clerk who rang her up at the counter?

• Did Hoyt, through her job at South Peninsula Hospital, get access to the man’s medical records, including his date of birth and that he had been prescribed Adderall through Scotts Pharmacy?

As Browning said in court testimony about the video, “The whole basis of this case were those few seconds.”

After the hospital learned of Hoyt’s felony charges, she was placed on administrative leave and later fired because she wouldn’t be able to pass a required criminal background check.

Hoyt had gone to Scotts on the afternoon of May 14 to pick up medicine for shingles, a form of chicken pox that can cause a rash and sometimes intense pain. She went to Homer Medical Clinic and had been prescribed Calladryl, an over-the-counter anti-itch lotion; an anti-viral medicine; and Vicodin, a brand name for hydrocodone, an opiate combined with a pain reliever.

In his affidavit, Browning alleged that Hoyt gave two names when she picked up her medicine, Michelle Hoyt and the man’s name.

According to court logs, while under examination by Assistant District Attorney Julia Hosmer, Kelsea Scott, the clerk at the counter, also testified that Hoyt said “Michelle Hoyt and (the man’s name).”

Hoyt agreed she said two names — her current legal name of Michelle Hoyt, and her former married name of Michelle Rosencrans. Hoyt, a 30-year Homer resident, remarried several years ago. She also goes by her nickname, Shelly. Hoyt said she used the two versions of her names because she has medical records in both names.

In cross examination by Hoyt’s lawyer, Andy Pevehouse, Scott backed off from her initial statement, and said, “I knew she asked for two different people, but I couldn’t remember the other name …. I didn’t say that I knew the other name, just that she picked up (the man’s prescription).”

In a phone interview, Pevehouse said, “Somehow the story went from ‘I remember two names’ to ‘I remember her name and (the man’s name).’”

According to court logs, in testimony it was revealed that the man’s identification and date of birth were not asked for. That’s information someone should have been asked for if picking up another person’s prescription for a controlled substance.

At trial, Pevehouse had a deaf person who could lip read testify about what she interpreted in looking at the video. Pevehouse asked her to look for specific words, including date of birth and the man’s name. That witness said she didn’t see Hoyt say the man’s names or give any dates of birth. The witness also said Hoyt asked “Was it two or three?” in reference to how many prescriptions she signed for. Hoyt wouldn’t have seen the man’s name, but would have seen a prescription number.

The district attorney’s theory was that Hoyt used deception to get the Adderall prescription.

“If you had just pulled this scam, why on earth would you have ended this conversation with questioning the number of prescriptions?” Pevehouse asked.

The state also had two other lip readers examine the video, including an FBI expert. They both testified that the video was of such poor quality it was hard to tell with certainty what was said.

Other witnesses testified that Scotts Pharmacy could have used its point-of-sale system to figure out that Hoyt had picked up prescriptions at the time the man’s prescription was picked up and then called her.

A hospital computer expert testified that there was no evidence Hoyt had accessed the man’s medical records. The only people who had accessed his records were medical providers.

In discussing the process for how a police investigation goes to trial, Homer Police Chief Mark Robl said that his office forwards the case to the district attorney’s office.

“It’s all in the DA’s hands after we make the arrest,” he said in a phone interview on Monday. “They decide how to prosecute the case. They could have chosen to dismiss it. In this case, they got the indictment and went forward.”

For felony cases, the charges also have to go to a grand jury. A grand jury indicted Hoyt on the drug charges.

Robl said he felt confident they had a good case to go to the DA.

“They chose to prosecute it,” he said. “The jury returned a not-guilty verdict. It’s that simple.”

Hoyt said she learned two things from her arrest and trial.

“When you get a prescription at your pharmacy, always check it even if you don’t plan on taking it for awhile,” she said. “Don’t assume that just because you’re trying to be helpful with the police — even if you’re innocent — you’re not in trouble.”

Pevehouse said Hoyt “had the most support of any defendant I’ve ever had. She just had a crowd of well-wishers, friends and family, all of whom were excellent, solid citizens in their own right.”

A message to the District Attorney’s office in Kenai seeking comment from Hosmer was referred to District Attorney Scot Leaders. At press time, Leaders did not respond to two messages.

A lawyer for Scotts Pharmacy, Darryl Thompson, sent this statement for the pharmacy:

“Recently, some of Scott Family Pharmacy employees were asked by the State of Alaska District Attorney’s office to testify in a criminal matter as witnesses. Each of their employees who testified fulfilled their civic responsibility by appearing as requested and testifying truthfully about the events in questions. The specifics and substance of the testimony are a matter of public record and at this juncture Scott Family Pharmacy maintains that due to privacy rights and HIPAA requirements, any further comment at this time is not appropriate.”

Reach Michael Armstrong at marmstrong@homernews.com.