Woman in court for sentencing allegedly presents forged doctor's note, then collapses

nwilson@thetribunenews.comMarch 28, 2011 

A 41-year-old woman who was in court this morning to be sentenced for prescription drug forgery allegedly presented a forged doctor’s note in an attempt to delay the proceedings, and then collapsed when the judge ordered her back into custody, according to a prosecutor.

Michelle Elaine Astumian, who had been out of jail after posting $45,000 bail, was scheduled to be sentenced today by Judge Barry LaBarbera to four years and eight months in state prison. She had pleaded no contest in January to two counts of forging a drug prescription and one count of using a fraudulent check. Each count is a felony.

But before the sentencing Deputy District Attorney Dave Pomeroy said that Astumian presented a doctor’s note stating that her sentencing should be postponed.

Pomeroy called the doctor whose name was signed on the note, and the doctor told him that the note was forged.

Pomeroy said that he reported the alleged forgery to LaBarbera, who ordered Astumian into custody. She then fell to the floor, prompting the judge to clear the courtroom for about 30 minutes.

An ambulance arrived and took Astumian to a local hospital.

It’s very unusual for a defendant to react in the manner that Astumian did, Pomeroy said.

“I’m trying to approach her reaction with understandable skepticism,” Pomeroy said.

Pomeroy said that Astumian will need to be brought back to court to be sentenced, but he wasn’t sure exactly when that might happen.

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