A former doctor who was previously charged with five counts of murder now faces manslaughter charges, officials announced on Thursday.
Acting state Supreme Court Justice Francis Ricigliano reduced the five murder charges against George Blatti to manslaughter, according to court documents.
Blatti, who was indicted last year, allegedly prescribed five individuals, two from the North Shore, fatal amounts of opioids and other medications, resulting in their deaths.
Prosecutors had previously alleged Blatti to be a “serial killer” and the Nassau County District Attorney’s office said Blatti’s 2021 indictment was believed to be the first time a doctor was charged with second-degree murder under a theory that a defendant acting with depraved indifference to human life occurred in New York.
Ricigliano, on Thursday, said in his ruling that the allegations “support a charge of reckless homicide.” Blatti’s attorney Nancy Bartling told Newsday that the significance of Ricigliano’s ruling will allow for a bail application to be submitted so Blatti can be released from jail as he awaits trial.
“It’s significant because the judge found that our position was correct, that there was never depraved indifference in this matter,” Bartling told Newsday.
Blatti, 76, pleaded not guilty last year on five counts of second-degree murder and 11 counts of reckless endangerment in the first degree, the results of a joint investigation between the district attorney’s office, the Nassau County Police Department and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
Blatti was initially arrested on April 18, 2019, and charged with 54 counts that October, including 22 counts of criminal sale of a prescription for a controlled substance, six counts of forgery in the second degree, two counts of reckless endangerment in the first degree, 22 counts of criminal diversion of prescription medications and prescriptions in the fourth degree, and two counts of reckless endangerment in the second degree.
One of the patients who died under his care was Diane Woodring, 53, from Port Washington, who died on Sept. 11, 2018, of acute intoxication by the combined effects of oxycodone, alprazolam, mirtazapine and valproic acid, all prescribed by Blatti, officials said. The DA’s office said that over a span of four years and one month, she was prescribed over 18,000 pills in 153 prescriptions, including over 9,300 30-milligram pills of oxycodone.
Officials said Sean Quigley, 31, a volunteer firefighter from Floral Park, also died under Blatti’s care, having struggled with opioid abuse dating back to at least 2008, and alleges that Blatti was aware of Quigley’s ill health and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease but prescribed the opioids anyway.
Overall, the district attorney’s office claimed that over a period of three years and four months, Blatti prescribed Quigley over 10,600 pills across 79 prescriptions, with over 7,000 of those pills being oxycodone.
Blatti previously faced up to 25 years to life, if he was convicted of the murder charges. According to Newsday, Ricigliano will listen to arguments about whether Blatti should be released from jail as he awaits his trial. Blatti is allegedly suffering from “multiple medical ailments,” according to Newsday.
A general practitioner first licensed to practice medicine in 1976 who surrendered his medical license in June 2019, Blatti had “no specialized training or accreditation in pain management,” the district attorney’s office previously said.
“For a time, he maintained a makeshift office in a Franklin Square storefront that was formerly a Radio Shack, with a Radio Shack sign and merchandise racks on the walls,” the office said in a statement.
The original indictment from 2019 alleged that Blatti met customers at his Franklin Square office throughout that year, and after he lost access to that space, saw patients in his car, prescribing medications with no examination from the parking lots of the Rockville Centre hotel where he lived and a nearby Dunkin’ Donuts.
“The grand jury charged that patients, who were addicted to opioids, went to Blatti with their requests for controlled medications and the defendant allegedly prescribed drugs with no medical history review or exam,” the district attorney’s office said. “He billed insurance and accepted cash. In some cases, he allegedly prescribed opioid painkillers at patients’ request to individuals he had never met or spoken to.