NORTH CANTON, Ohio – The owner of a portable X-ray business in North Canton, Ohio, has lost his appeal to have his 2022 conviction overturned due to the vaccination status of the jury. Thomas G. O’Lear was found guilty by a federal jury of defrauding Medicare and Medicaid out of nearly $2 million. His company, Portable Radiology Services, was accused of billing nursing home residents for X-ray services that were never provided, and then attempting to cover up the fraudulent activity.
In October 2022, O’Lear received a 15-year prison sentence and was ordered to pay $1,989,490 in restitution to Medicare, Medicaid, and two managed care organizations. However, he appealed the conviction, arguing that the jury was biased because it did not include unvaccinated members like himself.
On January 8, an appeals court judge rejected O’Lear’s claim, stating that his right to an impartial jury was not violated. The court explained that being unvaccinated against COVID-19 did not qualify as a “distinctive group” that would trigger concerns about excluding a fair cross-section of the community from the jury pool.
During the five-day trial, jurors were required to be vaccinated, a precaution implemented to minimize disruptions caused by the pandemic. O’Lear had argued that there were significant demographic differences between vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals, with a higher proportion of unvaccinated individuals being African Americans, residents of rural counties, young adults, and government skeptics. However, the court rejected these claims, citing previous caselaw.
O’Lear also challenged the court’s characterization of his crimes as involving “vulnerable victims.” He contended that only Medicare and Medicaid were impacted, not the nursing home residents. However, the court dismissed these claims, stating that the company had misused the identities of elderly and dependent long-term care residents in carrying out the fraudulent scheme.
While it remains to be seen if O’Lear will pursue further legal action, the appeals court’s decision reaffirms the validity of the original conviction. O’Lear’s attempt to have the conviction overturned due to the jury’s vaccination status was effectively rejected on the basis that unvaccinated individuals do not form a distinctive group that warrants concerns about an impartial jury.
This case highlights the ongoing legal battles and controversies surrounding COVID-19 vaccination status. The outcome serves as a reminder that personal vaccination status may not be considered as a relevant factor in determining the fairness of a jury.