2 defendants in meningitis outbreak case seek bail

Judge Jennifer Boal took the arguments under advisement

(AP Photo/Stephan Savoia, File)

BOSTON (AP) — Two men at the center of a 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak that killed 64 people asked to be freed from prison until their criminal trials.

Barry Cadden, a co-founder of the now-shuttered New England Compounding Center, and Glenn Chin, the Framingham-based company’s supervisory pharmacist, were in federal court Thursday as their lawyers argued for their release.

The two were among 14 people arrested Wednesday in a federal racketeering conspiracy that authorities say is the largest U.S. criminal case ever brought over contaminated medicine.

New England Compounding Center employees are accused of using expired ingredients and failing to follow cleanliness standards, resulting in tainted steroid injections used mostly for back pain.

More than 750 people in 20 states fell ill and 64 died. About half of the victims developed a rare fungal form of meningitis. The rest suffered joint or spinal infections.

Cadden and Chin’s lawyers argued that their clients have deep roots in Massachusetts and have long been aware of the likelihood of their arrest.

Bruce Singal, Cadden’s lawyer, called imprisonment until trial a “vast overreach.”

Stephen Weymouth, Chin’s lawyer, said his client has been following a home confinement order after being arrested and charged with a single count of federal mail fraud in September when he attempted to fly to Hong Kong with his family for a wedding.

Prosecutors argued the two pose a flight risk because they face life in prison if convicted.

“We understand the argument that they’ve been here forever, that they have homes here,” said George Varghese, an assistant U.S. attorney. “But the calculus changes when you face the enormity of offenses that these two men are now facing.”

Of the 14 defendants, Cadden and Chin face the most serious charges, including 25 counts each of second-degree murder under federal racketeering law. Others face charges including fraud and interstate sale of adulterated drugs.

Judge Jennifer Boal took the arguments under advisement and will render a decision at a later date.

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