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Attorney: Derges has no plans to resign

Amid criminal charges, state rep is removed from House Republican Caucus

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The attorney for state Rep. Tricia Derges, who faces federal criminal charges for prescription and wire fraud, said her client intends to stay in office despite calls from lawmakers to resign.

“I can tell you she has no plans at this time to announce her resignation,” said attorney Stacie Bilyeu, regarding Derges, R-Nixa.

Republicans in the Missouri House of Representatives voted Feb. 8 to kick the freshman legislator out of their caucus. Derges was elected in November to a two-year term in the House, representing Christian County in the 140th District.

House Speaker Rob Vescovo, R-Arnold, House Speaker Pro Tem John Wiemann, R-St. Charles, and Majority Floor Leader Dean Plocher, R-St. Louis, said in a joint statement the Feb. 8 vote “is reflective of the incredibly serious nature of the federal charges filed against her and the fact these issues compromise her ability to serve her constituents effectively.”

“Our leadership team and the members of our caucus strongly believe Rep. Derges should resign her seat to focus on her family and her legal issues,” the statement reads. “We hope Tricia will make the right decision for herself, her family and the good people of the 140th District.”

Bilyeu said Derges, who didn’t return messages for this story, had no comment on the recent action and statement from House leadership. However, the Springfield attorney said she’s personally disappointed that certain lawmakers are presumably sitting in instantaneous judgment of someone who has only been accused of crimes.

“For them to be seemingly just dispensing completely with the presumption of innocence is sad,” she said. “We teach our kids in school that folks are innocent until proven guilty and how important that presumption of innocence is to our country is what sets us apart.”

The federal indictment alleges Derges defrauded patients of roughly $192,000 through her Ozark Valley Medical Clinic practice by falsely claiming to use stem cells in regenerative medicine to treat COVID-19. She’s further accused of distributing Oxycodone and Adderall online to people without valid prescriptions, according to the indictment, and making false statements to federal agents.

The charges of wire fraud and distribution by means of the internet without a valid prescription make up 18 counts of the indictment. Each carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. According to the indictment, the two counts of false statements to federal agents have a maximum five-year prison sentence each. The related fines amount to a maximum of $250,000 for each count of wire fraud and making false statements and up to $1 million on each count of illegal distribution of prescription drugs.

The recent statement from House leadership represented the second time in less than a week that Vescovo had asked Derges to step down. He made the first request Feb. 4 after removing her from three committee assignments.

As of Feb. 11, 89% of Springfield Business Journal readers voted in favor of Derges resigning in an SBJ.net poll with over 830 votes.

Derges entered a plea of not guilty Feb. 1 and maintains her innocence on all charges, Bilyeu said. But since the 20-count federal indictment was unsealed Feb. 1, Bilyeu said Derges has been presumed guilty in the public eye.

“It’s a preceding where only one side gets to tell their story,” she said of the grand jury indictment process, which doesn’t allow the defendant or their lawyer to be present. “We don’t get to be there to cross examine the witnesses. We don’t get to be there to point out any holes that might exist in their story. We don’t get to present our own witnesses to tell our side.”

Bilyeu, who’s been practicing law for 27 years, has experience with federal cases stretching back to 1996, including time as a partner with former criminal defense lawyer Shawn Askinosie.

While Derges deals with legal issues, it’s business as usual at Ozark Valley Medical Clinic, said General Manager Erin Tompkins. She said Derges is sole owner of the practice and employs eight among its three clinics in Springfield, Branson and Ozark. Derges also is the founder of Springfield nonprofit Lift Up Someone Today, which provides medical, dental, mental health, chiropractic and pain massage therapy services since 2016, according to its website. She remains on the nonprofit’s board of directors, Bilyeu said.

“I have no concerns about her innocence and I fully support her,” Tompkins said. “She has reached out to us to offer her support to us as well. I truly believe the charges are unfounded.”

Tompkins said numerous threats have been coming in daily at the clinics via phone and email since the charges were announced.

“The amount of hate that the clinics and staff members have received in recent days is absolutely ridiculous,” she said, declining to cite examples of the threats. “The staff has nothing to do with the charges, and we wish the public would stop the threats.”

Bilyeu said a jury trial was originally set for March in federal court but has since been delayed to May. However, she said the case will almost certainly be moved further down the calendar.

“We’re really early on in the process right now,” she said, declining to disclose details of her client’s planned defense. “We’re just getting started.”

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