Dr. Diana Williamson, 56, has a novel defense to Medicaid fraud: she says the crime was actually committed by Nala, her alternative personality. The ultimate Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde defense. She claims that the disorder developed as a result of sexual abuse as a child by a Massachusetts priest. Supporting their claim is a diagnosis some 25 years ago.
Nala is described by Williamson’s lawyer as “mischievous, irresponsible, reckless and, as we have just discovered, criminal.” In a letter to the court, Williamson claimed that Nala “committed these crimes without telling Diana or the other parts of me about them.”
It is not clear if Williamson only charged as Diana the doctor as opposed to the lower rate of Nala the psychotic thief.
The disorder is not being claimed to prove innocence but to mitigate the sentence. The difficulty may lie in the crime which occurred over a long period of time and took detailed work and planning. Williamson allegedly wrote fake prescriptions for oxycodone to be purchased through Medicaid and then resold on the streets. She is accused of defrauding Medicaid out of about $300,000 as part of roughly a $1 million conspiracy. Over 11,000 painkiller pills were bought with Medicaid benefits and sold for $20 to $40 per pill.
The judge seemed skeptical of the multiple personality argument. U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska stated in the hearing that “I guess I’m having trouble understanding that with the defendant’s remarkable medical career, having founded an AIDS hospital … it doesn’t seem to have impaired her ability to function as a medical professional.”
She is also claiming to have medical conditions that make imprisonment too risky including pulmonary hypertension and life-threatening allergic asthma.
Notably, Williamson was heralded for her work on AIDS in Harlem and practiced medicine for decades during the same period when she was acting as two different people. In this case, Dr. Jekyll is throwing Mr. Hyde under the bus. The question is whether the court could simply agree and order Mr. Hyde or Nala imprisoned for the 11 years demanded by the government.