Court continues PVH surgeon's jail term – again: Sahlolbei's surrender hearing pushed to 2020

Pictured at the Riverside Superior Courthouse in Banning, California, on July 27, 2018, Palo Verde Hospital (PVH) surgeon Dr. Hossain Sahlolbei (right) has been granted another surrender hearing continuance – to Jan. 10, 2020 – in relation to a previously ordered 16-month sentence to county jail for an October 2016 felony grand theft conviction. (Archived file photo by Uriel Avendano/Palo Verde Valley Times)

On Nov. 4, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Timothy J. Hollenhorst pushed Palo Verde Hospital (PVH) surgeon Dr. Hossain Sahlolbei’s previously ordered 16-month sentence to county jail for an October 2016 felony grand theft conviction by granting a stipulated motion to continue the surrender to Jan. 10, 2020 – marking over 1,200 days since being found guilty by a jury in connection to an illegal non-publicly disclosed subcontract agreement for anesthesiologist services at the healthcare facility in 2009.

A previously conditioned and posted $200,000 bail to continue Sahlolbei’s surrender hearing remained, as ordered.

Sahlolbei’s ongoing series of surrender to commence sentencing hearings date back to previously set dates of Nov. 29, 2018, which was then continued to Feb. 22, re-scheduled again to May 24, pushed to Aug. 16, re-calendared for Nov. 4, and now noted for Jan. 1, 2020.

Sahlolbei currently represents himself, in pro per, to the court against the prosecuting Riverside County District Attorney.

The Nov. 4 stipulated motion’s reason to continue was noted as: “more preparation needed by (the) defense.”

Further, the court’s conference with the legal parties noted Sahlolbei would still like to hire counsel.

“(Sahlolbei) states he is trying to settle a lien and a court order regarding property he would like to sell,” states the Nov. 4 trial readiness conference’s recorded minutes. “(Sahlolbei requests the) court to give him more time to (settle) these matters. The court states that at the next hearing it will appoint the public defender if defendant has not been able to hire a private attorney. Court orders no further continuances be granted.”

As previously reported by the Times, at the May 24 hearing, Sahlolbei’s then-defense attorney of record – Kenneth P. White of Brown, White & Osborn LLP – originally motioned to withdraw as defense counsel.

Additionally, the defense was noted to have made an oral motion requesting the court “unfreeze (assets)/funds” to assist with according fees, which was then granted.

On Aug. 16, White’s motion was formally considered, heard and approved.

Citing a “complete breakdown in the attorney-client relationship,” White’s filing stated Sahlolbei’s representation to be unreasonably difficult to effectively move forward with the case.

“Recently a dispute regarding payment of fees arose between Dr. Sahlolbei and my firm. I gave Dr. Sahlolbei notice of his right to arbitrate, and on April 29, 2019, Dr. Sahlolbei initiated a fee arbitration against me and my firm with the Los Angeles County Bar Association. Now that we are adverse in that fee arbitration, I believe that my ability to represent Dr. Sahlolbei will be materially limited by my responsibilities to my firm and my need to defend my firm and myself in that fee arbitration, creating a conflict of interest,” stated White in court documents obtained by the Times. “Without revealing attorney-client communications, the general subject matter of the dispute is his conviction on the grand theft charge and my role in his defense. Our communications are now characterized by recrimination on that subject. I believe that this breakdown makes it unreasonably difficult to represent him effectively. Dr. Sahlolbei’s direct appeal brief – a public document – accuses me of ineffective assistance of counsel at trial. I previously believed that any conflict or potential conflict this caused could be waived for purposes of representing Dr. Sahlolbei in connection with the remaining Government Code 1090 claim, and obtained an appropriate written waiver. However, in light of the breakdown in the relationship and the nature of the dispute, I no longer believe that conflict can be effectively overcome.”

White had represented Sahlolbei since December 2013.

“Finally, Dr. Sahlolbei has breached our plea agreement by failing to pay fees and costs billed to him for my firm’s representation,” stated White in his signed declaration.

On Aug. 16, the court addressed Sahlolbei and advised him of his need to fill out a petition to proceed in propria persona – to act as his own attorney – which was motioned for and accordingly granted. At the same hearing of which, according to the morning’s minutes, Sahlolbei had originally stated a hope to find new counsel or sell property to pay for an attorney.

The case’s resentencing is in accordance to the California Court of Appeal’s, Fourth Appellate District (Division 2), February 2018 decision to grant prosecuting Riverside County District Attorney Michael Hestrin’s petitioned writ of mandate – which challenged and subsequently led to the reversal of Sahlolbei’s originally imposed sentence of three years’ probation for the felony grand theft conviction (in excess of $500,000).

Sahlolbei is challenging the grand theft conviction, and is also in the process of having an appeal heard on the case’s adjacent Government Code 1090 conflict of interest charge – the watershed case’s described “unusually complex procedural history” of which has led to ongoing continuances through the California judicial system.

“In September 2013, the People charged Dr. Sahlolbei with two counts of grand theft in violation of Penal Code (Section) 487 and two counts of conflict of interest in violation of Government Code (Section) 1090. In 2014, the Superior Court dismissed the Section 1090 counts on Dr. Sahlolbei’s motion, agreeing that the statute did not apply to him because he was (an) independent contractor, not a government employee. The People filed a writ challenging that ruling, staying the remainder of the case. In January 2016, the Court of Appeal denied that writ. The People petitioned for review in the California Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the case moved forward in the Superior Court on the one remaining theft count, the People having dismissed one of them. The parties took that count to trial and Dr. Sahlolbei was convicted in October, 2016. Dr. Sahlolbei appealed that conviction,” states a previous defense status report filed by White. “The Supreme Court of California granted review of the case and reversed, determining that Section 1090 does apply to independent contractors of the government. The Supreme Court remanded the case to the Court of Appeal for further proceeding, and the Court of Appeal remanded it for trial of the Section 1090 counts in early 2018. Based on that, the matter stands as follows: the direct appeal of the theft conviction is fully briefed and the parties await oral argument. The Section 1090 counts, before this court, arise from the identical facts and evidence as the theft conviction. Since the Section 1090 counts were remanded to this Court, the parties have stipulated to continue the trial setting conference while awaiting a ruling on the direct appeal. The parties believe that the result on the direct appeal may dictate the resolution of the Section 1090 counts, and it would be an immense waste of resources to try the Section 1090 case and then try the theft case again if the theft conviction is reversed. Therefore, Dr. Sahlolbei will request, and understands that the People will agree to, a further 90 day continuance of the trial readiness conference while awaiting the ruling of the court of Appeal.”

On Sept. 11, a published ruling by California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District (Division 2), affirmed their previous Feb. 8, 2018, decision stating Sahlolbei was ineligible for probation.

The 47-page ruling obtained and reviewed by the Times further states:

“(Sahlolbei) argues the prosecution failed to prove (he) committed the crime of theft by false pretenses because there was no theft of the Hospital’s money by false pretenses. The Hospital paid Dr. B. his salary, as agreed in the contract between the Hospital and Dr. B. (Sahlolbei) further argues he was under no obligation to disclose to the Hospital his side-contract with Dr. B. These arguments lack merit because they do not refute the fact that defendant’s false and misleading representations induced the Hospital to enter into a contract with Dr. B., which included terms the Hospital would not have agreed to, had (Sahlolbei) not made false and misleading statements. The Hospital would not have paid Dr. B. the excess money (Sahlolbei) skimmed off of Dr. B.’s Hospital salary and relocation fee paid by the Hospital to Dr. B. We therefore conclude there was substantial evidence to support defendant’s conviction for theft by false pretenses.”

Sahlolbei has appealed the appellate court’s affirmed ruling to the California Supreme Court.

According to the Medical Board of California (MBC), Sahlolbei’s license remains under probation – four years, effective Nov. 2, 2017 – as ordered per the state agency’s disciplinary administrative action following the grand theft jury conviction.

“During probation, Dr. Sahlolbei is prohibited from supervising physician assistants and advanced practice nurses,” states Sahlolbei’s current MBC record.

The Palo Verde Healthcare District’s (PVHD) Oct. 23 Board of Directors agenda notes Sahlolbei as the reporting Medical Executive Committee’s Chief of Staff.

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