Prescription bottles

The case of a physician charged with running an oxycodone “pill mill” in the Richmond area has taken a strange turn, as he appears to be challenging the authority of a federal court to try him.

Reached by telephone last week at his mother’s home where he is confined pending trial, Clarence Scranage Jr., 61, of King George County said he could not comment on the advice of his attorney — and he noted, chuckling, that he was his own attorney.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the case.

Scranage and Anthony Harper, 45, of DeWitt were named in a nine-page indictment Feb. 21 alleging conspiracy to possess controlled substances with the intent to distribute them and 18 counts of distribution of controlled substances. Both men pleaded not guilty.

Last month, after a thorough grilling to make sure he knew what he was doing and repeated cautioning from U.S. Magistrate Judge David J. Novak, Scranage was permitted to represent himself even though he faces up to 380 years in prison if convicted of all the charges.

On May 22, he filed a document with the court titled “Response to the Indictment” that says in part: “I do not accept this jurisdiction According to the treaties in which the United States Corporation signed when joining the Universal Postal Union this court is violating International Law. You are hereby compelled to cease and desist on any further action.”

He wrote that he, “Scranage, Clarence, Jr. American National privately residing in a private domicile outside of Federal District in a non-military private estate located outside of a federal District not subject to the jurisdiction of the ‘United States.’”

The relevance of the reference to the Universal Postal Union is unclear. Established in 1874, with headquarters in Switzerland, the union describes itself as having 192 member countries and is the primary forum for cooperation between postal services.

Several other documents were also filed by Scranage last week, among them: “Judicial Notice Claiming Case Number,” “Judicial Notice Disclaiming Trusteeship,” “Bill of Exception,” and “Judicial Notice of Return of Trust Res to Court.”

On Thursday, he filed a motion seeking permission to travel from the home where he is staying to use the law library at the University of Richmond for legal research to prepare his defense. Lowe granted the motion Friday.

Court records show the jury trial for Scranage and Harper had been set to begin May 31 but has been rescheduled for Aug. 7 because Scranage will be having kidney surgery. U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson is presiding over the trial.

Authorities allege Scranage is a self-described pain-management specialist and has practiced in offices in Richmond and in Chesterfield and Henrico counties. The alleged conspiracy occurred from July 2011 until February 2015.

The indictment alleges that Harper recruited people, whose names were given to Scranage, who wrote prescriptions for them. Harper and others paid Scranage for the prescriptions. The “patients” who allowed their names to be used were paid by Harper, who then sold the pills to “sub-dealers or users,” according to the indictment.

Physicians must prescribe oxycodone — an addictive opioid and controlled substance — only for legitimate medical purposes. The indictment accuses Scranage of repeatedly failing to individually assess medical needs.

At a hearing in March, the FBI said approximately 120,000 oxycodone pills were obtained through prescriptions and sold on the streets for about $17 to $25 each, totaling an estimated $2.4 million. Nevertheless, Scranage said he was unsure whether he had enough money to pay a lawyer’s fees.

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