More MS news articles for September 1999

Reding fails to show for arraignment; warrant issued
By Mary Perea/ Associated Press Writer

BERNALILLO, N.M. -- A judge issued a warrant today for a retired Michigan psychiatrist and associate of Jack Kevorkian who is accused of giving a drug overdose to a multiple sclerosis patient.

Georges Reding, 74, of Galesburg, Mich., did not show up for his arraignment here this morning before state District Judge Louis P. McDonald. Reding's attorney was not in court, either.

District Attorney Mike Runnels said the warrant would be circulated to Michigan authorities and sent to the National Crime Information Center.

An autopsy showed Donna Brennan, 54, of Rio Rancho, died in August 1998 from a lethal dose of pentobarbital -- a sedative.

Telephone and credit card records, along with a witness, placed Reding at Brennan's house around the time of her death, authorities said.

Brennan had suffered from the crippling effects of multiple sclerosis for more than 20 years. Police at first thought she died of natural causes, but her family urged police to investigate, and the drug turned up in the autopsy.

Representatives of groups both for and against assisted suicide attended the aborted arraignment.

Kate Watson of New Mexico Death with Dignity said she had spoken to Reding's staff, who told her he was out of the country.

Jim Parker of Santa Fe, representing a group called Not Dead Yet, said he was not surprised Reding didn't show up. The group opposes assisted suicide for people with disabilities.

"They come under the dark of night," he said of people who assist with such suicides.

Parker said he hopes "that we see him (Reding) in handcuffs and carried off to jail."

Runnels was not willing to speculate on Reding's whereabouts but said nothing led him to believe Reding, who was born in Belgium, was out of the country.

Runnels said New Mexico authorities will do everything in their power to see that Reding faces trial here.

The warrant calls for Reding to be held without bond.

"The simplest course of action for the defendant is to appear before a New Mexico judge and ask for reasonable conditions of release," Runnels said outside court. "Depending on what happens, we'll see how reasonable we're willing to be."

Last month, Reding's attorney, Michael Schwartz, told reporters: "I'm not in a position to tell you what I'm going to do other than to say there will be no guilty plea."

Assisted suicide is a felony in New Mexico, punishable by up to 18 months in prison. But a Sandoval County grand jury on Aug. 19 chose to indict Reding on charges of first-degree murder, practicing medicine without a license, trafficking in a controlled substance and evidence tampering.

Reding's association with Kevorkian became public in July 1996, when Kevorkian attorney Geoffrey Fieger introduced him at a meeting of the National Press Club, describing the connection as a fellowship.

Reding told the crowd he had witnessed five assisted suicides and would continue to help Kevorkian judge the mental status of people who sought his help in dying. Reding said he joined Kevorkian because he was "embarrassed by the cowardice of my profession" in not supporting patients who seek suicide.

In 1996, Reding and Kevorkian were charged in connection with three assisted suicides in Oakland County, Mich. A prosecutor later dropped all the charges, saying there was insufficient evidence.

About two years later, Reding and Kevorkian were arrested on charges they resisted arrest and interfered with police while dropping a body off at a Royal Oak, Mich., hospital. Reding was acquitted; Kevorkian was convicted.

Kevorkian was jailed in April, sentenced to 10 to 25 years after being convicted of murdering a Lou Gehrig's disease patient.