The defense attorney for a Toronto sports doctor is having talks with federal prosecutors that could lead to a plea agreement, sources close to the case said Tuesday.
Dr. Anthony Galea, whose patients have included golfer Tiger Woods, baseball star Alex Rodriguez and other top professional athletes, has been under indictment in Buffalo since last October -- but he has yet to appear here to respond to the charges.
Attorney Mark J. Mahoney said he is "communicating" with the U.S. Attorney's Office about the case, but he declined to comment when asked if a plea deal is in the works.
"We are communicating with the U.S. attorney," Mahoney said. "We're not ignoring them, and they aren't ignoring us."
Other sources close to the case told The Buffalo News the discussions between Mahoney and prosecutors could lead to a guilty plea. Well over 90 percent of the cases in Buffalo's federal court wind up with the defendant pleading guilty to at least one of the counts filed against him.
Galea was indicted last October on felony charges of smuggling misbranded and unapproved drugs into the United States to treat pro athletes.
Authorities have never disclosed which athletes the drugs were for. The investigation was conducted by agents from the Buffalo offices of the FBI, Immigration & Customs Enforcement, Customs & Border Protection and the Food & Drug Administration. During the years 2007-2009, Galea is accused of treating pro athletes with performance-enhancing drugs that he and an assistant allegedly smuggled into the United States.
Galea did treat the athletes, but "only with the goal of helping them to recover from injuries," Mahoney said.
U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. said Tuesday that he could not comment on whether his office is involved in any discussions on a potential plea arrangement for Galea.
"What I can tell you is that the government has no intent to dismiss any of the charges against Dr. Galea," Hochul said.
It is unusual for a criminal defendant to not make his court appearance more than six months after indictment, Hochul said, but he added that it is not quite as unusual in a case where the defendant lives in a foreign country.
In such a case, the defendant can voluntarily turn himself in, or the U.S. government could work out an arrangement with the country where the individual is staying to apprehend him, Hochul said.
In cases where the individual does not surrender voluntarily, "there are a lot of details that have to be worked out," Hochul said.
Does Mahoney expect Galea to either take a guilty plea or go to trial?
"I have no expectation one way or another at this point," Mahoney said.
The federal probe began in September 2009 when an assistant to Galea, Mary Anne Catalano, was caught at the Peace Bridge with human growth hormone drugs in her car.