Lawyer says pediatric dentist is not competent for prosecution

Dr. Howard S. Schneider facing Medicaid fraud charges

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The lawyer for an embattled pediatric dentist facing 11 counts of Medicaid fraud has filed a motion to have his client declared not competent for prosecution.

Dr. Howard S. Schneider, 78, has pleaded not guilty to those charges and one count of scheme to defraud.

His lawyers argued unsuccessfully last month to have the charges dismissed.

According the motion filed last week, his attorneys "have observed that he suffers from severe mental deficits and lack of memory which give counsel concern that Schneider is incompetent to proceed." 

The motion also says that Schneider has been evaluated by a forensic psychologist, who agrees that he can't go to trial. 

Attorney Randy Reep, who's unaffiliated with the case, told News4Jax that it is important, on the part of the attorney, to adequately represent their client. He said that if Schneider can't communicate effectively with his attorney, then that may be why the motion was filed.

"The motion is asking Judge (Angela) Cox to determine that Dr. Schneider is incompetent to stand trial, meaning from an attorney standpoint, it's important to understand that he's incompetent or ineffective to be able to assist the attorney in his own defense," Reep said.

Reep said the case may have taken a toll on Schneider and forced his attorney to file the motion to declare him incompetent to stand trial.

"It's my expectation that he would be placed in a mental facility. You may think of it as a great deal like a prison to either restore his competency, for example, to rehabilitate whatever the limitation is so that he can assist his attorney and move forward in trial. Or he would remain there, not having to have been able to regain his competency," Reep said. 

The process will include one to two medical professionals evaluating Schneider and then the judge making the final ruling.

Schneider's trial is set to begin June 13.

Schneider remains free on $110,000 bond and is now living in St. Simons Island, Georgia.

The state claims the pediatric dentist billed Medicaid hundreds of thousands of dollars for procedures he didn’t actually perform. Parents claim that the pediatric dentist abused children.

Motion to dismiss | Motion for protective order | Motion to declare defendant incompetent

Included in the state's evidence gathered for the fraud case are nearly a dozen similar accounts from parents telling investigators what they and their kids experienced in Schneider’s office:

"That man doctor threw me."
"He choked me and pulled my teeth."
"They’re lying to you."

The Office of the Attorney General Medicaid Fraud Control Unit interviewed them as a part of its investigation of the dentist. Parents of Schneider's patients recounted hearing screams, children injured during procedures, and children getting procedures the parents didn't even know about.

Parents reported their children's lips were bruised, their kids were very scared, and one patient was found face down on the floor.

One parent told investigators they took their child to Schneider's office for a procedure they were told would only take 30 minutes. After three hours, the parent went to the window three times, and an assistant finally said there was an incident.

When the parent was finally able to see the child, the child was hyperventilating and had marks, scratches and blood all over.

According to one document, Schneider’s assistant told the person the child was on a papoose board and, “We stepped out, came back and (he/she) was face first on the floor.”

But the child had a different story, telling investigators: “They’re lying to you. That man doctor threw me and that lady picked me up when I was on the board, and she was laughing at me and sat on me and choked me.”
The parent told investigators, “I saw that my baby was missing all (his/her) teeth.”

The documents also include what experts told investigators about Schneider, including:

  • His consent form is too general, and he should get consent from parents before performing additional procedures. 
  • His charts had poor progress notes.
  • The quality of work performed on the patients was low and below standards of care.
  • The type and amount of sedation that Schneider was using on the children was very mild and would not be strong enough for a child 3 years or older.

One dentist who treated patients after they had seen Schneider told investigators, "It was like if Dr. Schneider had done crowns, the crown was gone. If Schneider had done a filling, the filling was gone."

Patient depositions: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | Doctor depositions 1 | 2

Schneider is also facing civil lawsuits from former patients.

Copyright 2016 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.