A federal judge has turned down a prominent South Portland dermatologist’s bid for a new trial on tax evasion and other charges.

U.S. District Judge George Z. Singal issued a terse order Thursday rejecting the motion for a new trial for Dr. Joel Sabean. Singal said simply that he based his decision on the prosecution’s arguments against a new trial.

Defense lawyers had based their motion on the sensational testimony of the key witness against Sabean – a family member who claimed he had sexually abused her for years and sent her millions of dollars to keep her quiet and to maintain the exchange of sexually explicit emails between the two.

Sabean was convicted in November of tax evasion for writing off more than $2.3 million in payments to the woman as medical expenses on his taxes, avoiding payments of $900,000. He wasn’t charged with sexual abuse.

Sabean’s lawyers said that allowing the woman to allege sexual abuse as a witness prejudiced the jury against him.

Sabean was convicted on 58 counts in all, including unlawfully distributing a controlled substance for prescriptions he wrote for the woman, and health care fraud for making out some of those prescriptions in his wife’s name so insurance would cover part of the cost.


Last week, the lawyers introduced a letter, apparently from the woman to Sabean, in which she suggested she tried to undercut her testimony by admitting in court that she has a problem telling the truth, and apologized repeatedly for testifying against the doctor.

The Portland Press Herald has not named the woman because of its policy of not identifying alleged victims of sexual abuse without their consent.

Defense lawyers argued that, in addition to excluding the allegations of sexual abuse, Singal should have ordered Sabean to be tried separately on the tax charges.

In response to the defense motion, federal prosecutors argued that they had to introduce the allegations of sexual abuse to provide a motive for Sabean’s payments. They said the prescriptions and health care fraud were part of the same scheme to keep the woman quiet, so it was proper to try Sabean on all of the charges together.

Sabean is scheduled to be sentenced in April. He faces as much as 20 years in prison and $600,000 in fines.

Jay P. McCloskey, one of Sabean’s lawyers, said he wasn’t surprised by Singal’s decision.


Orders for new trials are rare, he said, because they almost always require a judge to determine that he or she mishandled the trial.

“The judge usually doesn’t overturn himself,” he said.

McCloskey said Sabean’s defense team anticipates filing an appeal after he is sentenced.

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:


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