GOLD BEACH – A warrant was issued for the arrest of former Del Norte County District Attorney Michael Donald Riese because he chose to enter a rehabilitation program instead of appearing in Curry County Circuit Court on Friday to face drug tampering and forgery charges.
Riese, 48, is set for a two-day trial in September, charged with two counts of tampering with drug records and two of second-degree forgery, stemming from two incidents in December when he allegedly used forged prescriptions to purchase a controlled substance. He was to appear in court Friday for arraignment on an indictment and to possibly change his earlier not guilty plea.
Coos County District Attorney R. Paul Frasier appeared by telephone as a special Curry County district attorney, prosecuting the case.
Frasier told Circuit Court Judge Michael Gillespie of Coos County, who was sitting in for Curry County judges, that Riese apparently decided he had a drug abuse problem after he was recently arrested in California on suspicion of driving while under the influence.
“On Monday, he checked himself into a 28-day program,” Frasier said. “He already has a trial date in September.”
Frasier said that the state had reached an agreement with Riese and he asked that Friday’s appearance be set over for 28 days to complete that program.
“In my world, somebody who doesn’t show up on a felony, I issue a warrant,” Gillespie said.
The judge said that security would be set at $50,000.
“He needs to appear on the criminal case,” Gillespie said. “I will hold that warrant until Tuesday. At that time the warrant goes out.”
Gillespie indicated that Riese might be able meet the requirement by appearing by telephone.
Curry County Judge Jesse Margolis in April set a two-day trial date for Riese to begin on Sept. 5, but he left negotiations open for a month.
Frasier told Margolis that Riese was trying to get an answer from the California State Bar and another licensing agency before deciding whether to accept a plea offer.
Margolis set a change of plea date for May 4.
Riese had said earlier he was seeking advice on collateral consequences if he accepted the offer.
The charging information says that last Dec. 7 and again on Dec. 12, Riese unlawfully and knowingly uttered a forged prescription for fentanyl, a controlled substance, in Curry County.
Those are both Class C felonies.
It also says that on Dec. 7 and Dec. 12, Riese knowingly uttered written instruments which the defendant knew to be forged.
Those are both Class A misdemeanors.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse describes Fentanyl as a “powerful synthetic opiate analgesic similar to but more potent than morphine. It is typically used to treat patients with severe pain, or to manage pain after surgery.”
Curry County District Attorney Everett Dial said that he had asked Frasier to handle the Riese case because of a conflict of interest.
“When he was DA, I frequently talked to him about cases that involved both counties,” Dial said. “Because I had worked with him, I didn’t think it appropriate to handle the case.”
The charges were filed after an employee at the Chetco Pharmacy in Brookings became suspicious of Riese because he was a new customer, wanted to pay cash and the signature of his doctor, Dr. Donald Micheletti, appeared forged, an affidavit stated.
She contacted Micheletti’s Crescent City office, faxed a copy of the prescription and then was informed by someone at his office that it wasn’t his signature, nor did he authorize the prescription for fentanyl, the affidavit stated.
A Brookings detective also spoke with Micheletti about the prescription Riese attempted to use, the affidavit stated.
Micheletti told the detective that he did not sign the prescription and that the pad it came from had not been in use for several years, the affidavit stated.
Micheletti also said he is a personal friend of Riese and was unaware how he obtained the prescription, the affidavit stated.
Riese said the prescription was about a year old and was legitimately signed.