Former Steelers physician seeks to have evidence suppressed

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A Downtown physician who once served as the team doctor for the Steelers and more recently performed the annual physicals for the FBI is seeking today to have key evidence suppressed in the 185-count indictment against him.

Dr. Richard Rydze and his attorney, Adrian Roe, are asking U.S. District Judge Maurice B. Cohill to throw out evidence from a three-hour FBI interview conducted while other agents searched the defendant's business, Optimal Health Center. The May 2011 interview was conducted under conditions that Dr. Rydze claims he understood to be an arrest, but was done without any recitation of his Miranda rights to remain silent or have an attorney present, according to Mr. Roe.

Testimony this morning included that of FBI special agent Dominic Trippodo and Julie Halferty, who was at the time assistant chief division counsel to the FBI's Pittsburgh office. Both were selected to interview Dr. Rydze because they were new to the office and had thus never been examined by him.

Mr. Trippodo said that the search and interview started around 9 a.m. with the entry into Dr. Rydze's office of four FBI SWAT team members, who he believed secured the premises with guns drawn. Then the three agents assigned to interview Dr. Rydze, and an unspecified number who searched his files, came in.

Mr. Trippodo said that he patted down Dr. Rydze, finding no weapons, and maintained that the physician was asked whether he would like to speak with agents. Although he did not document it in his notes, he said the doctor was told that he could leave at any time, but would not then be allowed back into the office until the search was over.

He said the interview was factual and non-coercive, though at one point another agent "rose her tone of voice to prompt Dr. Rydze to be truthful to us."

"Toward the end of the interview he began to have a visible change in demeanor," said Mr. Trippodo, characterizing the doctor as "depressed." The agents gave him information on suicide prevention services.

Under cross examination from Mr. Roe, the agent confirmed that the final report of the interview indicated only on its final page that Dr. Rydze "chose to leave." The report did not clearly indicate that the doctor was told he could leave prior to the interview.

Ms. Halferty said it's not the FBI's policy to read someone their rights if they are not, at that time, under arrest. Dr. Rydze was not the subject of an arrest warrant and was not arrested on that date.

The physician was indicted and arrested in October 2012, and has been released pretrial.

Dr. Rydze served the Steelers for two decades until 2007, when the team ended the association following investigations of his purchases of human growth hormone. He has pleaded not guilty to the indictment related to the illegal sale of performance-enhancing drugs and narcotics in the period after he left his role with the team.

A pharmaceutical business owner sentenced last year has said that he paid around $178,000 in kickbacks to Dr. Rydze, in return for orders of performance-enhancing drugs by the physician's patients.

Assistant U.S. attorneys Matthew B. Kall and Carolyn Skutnik, of the Department of Justice's Cleveland office, are handling the prosecution, because U.S. Attorney David Hickton's office had a conflict of interest.

 

 


Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1542. Twitter: @richelord.

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