Skip to main content

tv   Dateline Extra  MSNBC  May 5, 2019 9:00pm-10:00pm PDT

9:00 pm
>> no. >> sometimes he disappeared for months at a time. later police suspected the stranger may have had business to transact on the other side ever the mountains in switzerland. >> he went to a couple of time to swiss. >> to switzerland. >> yes. also by bicycle. >> yes. >> do you think he had bank accounts there? >> yes. >> coming up, a fugitive comes in from the cold. >> i would live here. i would live here. >> when the great escape continues. inues. ♪ goin' down the only road i've ever known ♪ ♪ like a drifter i was-- ♪ born to walk alone! keep goin' man! you got it! if you ride, you get it. ♪ here i go again geico motorcycle.
9:01 pm
15 minutes could save you 15% or more. you wouldn't accept an incomplete job from any one else. why accept it from your allergy pills? flonase sensimist relieves all your worst symptoms, including nasal congestion, which most pills don't. and all from a gentle mist you can barely feel. flonase sensimist.
9:02 pm
you can barely feel. [spanish recording] so again, using "para", you're talking about something that is for someone. ♪ pretty good. could listening to audible inspire you to start something new? download audible and listen for a change.
9:03 pm
welcome back to "dateline extra." i'm craig melvin. dr. mark weinberger was the focus of an international manhunt. for months he would stay astep ahead bouncing from one european city to the next. but eventually he settled in a small italian mountain village.
9:04 pm
was there with investigators still on his trail that romance found him. but would love be blinded? >> whatever this mysterious american mark weinberger was up to, it didn't take long for locals to realize he had a taste for the finer things and always paid in cash. >> he had no job. he spent the time at the cafe with his computer or he went shopping. >> what kinds of things did he buy? >> very, very expensive material for climbing. >> any sign of a bank account here in town? >> no. >> just cash. >> just cash. this is the main street of courmayeur. >> and some very nice high-end shops here. >> yes. very expensive, too. >> this is a place where he frequented. >> yes. >> an american with money is always welcome. but in a small town like courmayeur, it was inevitable that someone would pull up a chair, perhaps buy him a drink, and try to learn something about
9:05 pm
this solitary american and pass it along. did you ever see him here? his name according to those who gained his confidence was mark. mark something. >> it sound quite like a german last name. mark stern. >> whenever he was in town, mark stern seemed to be a fixture on the nearby slopes by day and a cafe presence by night. no one seemed to know where he slept exactly until late 2008. >> here on the left we have the agency. >> that's when he walked into this real estate office and signed a lease. >> this is where he rented his apartment. >> yes. >> it looked as though the rich american intended to stick around for a while. >> here in italy, it's not a very affordable place. >> the apartment he rented was in a convenient spot near the center of town.
9:06 pm
>> whatever you need is right here. >> just a few steps from the lift that carries skiers up to the slopes and just a few yards down the block from a local grocer. >> he would shop in here? >> yes. >> handy for a single man to grab a few supplies and something simple to heat up at home. the stranger might well have lived on indefinitely as courmayeur's very own international man of mystery, had he not walked into that grocery store one night and struck up a conversation with a woman behind the register. that is where our story takes another fateful turn because it was in that moment that the rich american proceeded to make a mistake that has proved the undoing of men ever since adam accepted that apple from eve. the man who called himself mark stern was about to fall in love. for more than two years, mark weinberger walked the streets of europe safe in the anonymity of crowds.
9:07 pm
according to "vanity fair" writer buzz bissinger, he cut away people from the past, anyone who knew his name with the cool detachment of a surgeon. >> i think it's i'm rejecting everything i had in the past. maybe you don't like your wife or maybe you do. he leaves in september of 2004. never, ever contacts her again. he's got a brother neil who he's very close to. never, ever contacts him again. so that's what we're dealing with. >> it must have been exhilarating at first, using fake names and covering your tracks like a character in some spy novel. but in all pulp fiction stories, there comes a time and place where a woman enters the story and carefully wrought plans begin to crumble. for the man calling himself mark stern, the place was courmayeur, and the woman in question had a past as intriguing as his own.
9:08 pm
>> i saw him in my market. >> a customer. >> yeah. he came to bring milk, bananas, some cheese. >> he was buying milk, banana, cheese from you. >> yeah. >> monica spaconi, a transsexual who says the man who walked into her store bought groceries from her more than two times in the winter over 2007-2008. he bought groceries from her more than two dozen times. sometimes he paused to make small talk. >> what name did he use? >> mark stern. >> then she says she didn't see him for a while. >> in the springtime, disappear. summertime, too. >> monica says that when mark stern returned at the end of november 2008, he told her he had been bicycling around europe. it was then, monica says, she and that outdoorsy american began skiing together practically every day. and he began telling her stories about his life. >> he told me to be married and to be divorced. and to have a strange wife,
9:09 pm
asking money, money, money, money, money. mercedes first. >> he said his wife wanted all these things. >> exactly. he laughed about her. >> he laughed about her. >> yeah. >> monica says mark stern told her he was a stockbroker from new york who had made a lot of money but now only wanted to live a peaceful life. >> and he told me, my life was really, really, really stressed, and now -- and here i enjoy here and so i've found finally quiet. and that was impressive for me because i'm quiet. >> according to monica, her mark stern was a born romantic, who knew how to sweep a girl off her feet. >> so valentine's day 2009, he arrived with this rose with a big smile, was an amazing night.
9:10 pm
so there happened private things. >> love. >> yeah. yeah. first time with him and after i was always -- it was always good. >> monica says even in their moments of intimacy the man she knew as mark stern clammed up whenever she asked for details about his past. >> what he told me was, don't ask me my past, please. >> don't ask. >> exactly. >> still, monica says the relationship became serious enough that she introduced him to her parents, who were quite taken by this sophisticated american. >> with my parents, talked about economy, talked about experience on the mountain, philosophy. >> philosophy. >> philosophy, yeah.
9:11 pm
kaum -- camus. >> camus. philosophy, a tantalizing clue perhaps but only for someone familiar with the life story of a certain free-spending, philosophy-loving fugitive doctor from america. philosophy, after all, had always been a pet passion of mark weinberger's. but that tidbit meant nothing to monica. she had never even heard of mark weinberger. all she knew was that this man, this mark stern, loved her. >> from the first day he was a really good man with me. with me, my family, with my friends, was a good man. for me was a good man. >> in the spring of 2009, monica says she and mark took a grueling bike trip through alpine passes to switzerland. monica says it was in a swiss village of grindelwald at the foot of famed mount iger that he told her he wanted to spend one
9:12 pm
night on the mountain alone. >> the next morning i bring my cycle and up the mountain to him. he come close to me with a big smile, screaming thank you, monica, thank you, monica, thank you, monica. why, mark? because i passed the best night of my life. >> after returning to courmayeur, monica says mark stern told her he had been inspired by that night on the mountain and wanted to spend a whole year at a high altitude in a tent alone. >> he wanted to write a book, how to survive above -- >> 6,000 feet. >> exactly. for an entire year. >> that september monica says mark set up and equipped three separate campsites in the mountains above courmayeur. >> really beautiful. really beautiful. >> she says he told her that after publishing that book he was writing they would move to switzerland together and perhaps adopt children. >> this is my little city i started building. >> and so, as the temperatures
9:13 pm
dropped in the fall of 2009 and the snow came, the man monica knew as mark stern set to make a name for himself in the alps. to her, it seemed crazy. but writer buzz bissinger says monica's mark stern was actually behaving true to form. >> i think when he decided, i'm living this philosophical, aesthetic monk-like life, i have to do it big live type. i'm going to go to the mountain and live up to my butt in snow, in 15-degree-below weather and prove my manhood, unlike anyone else has ever proved it. it makes perfect sense to me because that's exactly what a narcissist does. >> so this is my camp. >> monica recorded this video of her boyfriend's mountain campsite on her cell phone. >> so the city is growing a little. >> though his tastes for having the very best gear money could buy is evident, the new and improved alpine mark
9:14 pm
demonstrates he has learned the value of improvisation. >> these are $8 gardening gloves, and i got sick of getting my hands wet with my expensive 100 euro high-tech gore-tex gloves. >> in this clip, mark and monica have found an unoccupied shelter on the mountain. it's not as posh as that chicago townhouse he once owned, but after months of living alone in a tent, this shelter seems to suit him. >> if i owned this place, i would live here. i would live here. >> why not? >> for sure. >> these were the happy times, the moments when past burdens seemed to melt away like spring snow. but monica says there were also days when her lover seemed to be cracking under the weight of something unseen. and yet undeniable. >> november 2009, he was a little depressed because was cold and at the time he was alone.
9:15 pm
and so was difficult, really difficult. one day he began to cry. what's up, mark? what's up? i'm tired, really tired. why, mark? forget, but i'm tired. >> was mark stern just tired of living in a tent or tired of living a lie? whichever it was, as he settled in for another cold and lonely night on the mountain, he had no idea of how close his past was to catching up to him. >> did the fugitive who remained under the radar for years finally slip up? coming up -- >> he left a coffee. >> yes. >> he is a fugitive, on the run. >> it's the alps. there are a lot of places to hide. >> i receive a strange call.
9:16 pm
to my phone, and it was a friend, and he told me monica, mark is not what he claimed to be. what do you mean? trust me. >> when "the great escape" continues. flonase sensimist relieves all your worst symptoms, including nasal congestion, which most pills don't. and all from a gentle mist you can barely feel. flonase sensimist. nick, nick, we need a decision. these days we all feel a little anxious sometimes. but if you could see inside my mind; you'll find i go to my happy place. see if we let tensions run the show up here, then our bodies won't perform at their best out here. wait, aren't we going to the sound check? priorities. so i'm partnering with cigna, to remind you that how you're doing emotionally affects you physically. go for your annual check-up and be open with your doctor about anything you're feeling. physically, and emotionally. body and mind cigna. together all the way.
9:17 pm
(coughing) need a change of scenery? kayak searches hundreds of travel sites and filters by cabin class, wi-fi and more. so you can be confident you're getting the right flight at the best price. kayak. search one and done.
9:18 pm
welcome back. mark weinberger was living a life ripped from the pages of a spy novel, wanted on fraud
9:19 pm
charges. the doctor was doing everything he could to keep his identity secret while hiding out in the italian alps, he had adopted an assumed name, lied to his new girlfriend about his past. but at least one person from that previous life could not give up on finding him just yet. for years after her husband abandoned her in the greek isles, michelle kramer fought back every way she could. she tried tracking him down herself, following leads to paris and cannes. and she never missed a chance to enlist the public's help. >> it was like peeling the scars away from my heart, telling the whole story each time. >> but once the story went cold and the media grew tired of her story, michelle resigned herself to the probability mark weinberger was gone forever. >> i had hoped that he would be caught, but i thought there was a really good chance that he would die on the run in europe and nobody would know where he was. >> then in september 2008, four
9:20 pm
years after mark weinberger left her with nothing but her passport and a thousand euros, michelle kramer got a call from the fbi, asking her to do one more interview, this one with a crime show "america's most wanted." >> the fbi hoped i would help them. because they weren't getting anywhere with the case. i had stopped doing a lot of media at that point. i was focusing on my career and trying to move forward. but i thought, okay, i'll help with the investigation. i felt like i really needed an answer from him. >> it was a long shot, michelle thought, another pointless appeal broadcast into the ether. >> he's probably living the high life again somewhere in the mediterranean. >> this time was different. this time the mark weinberger story found extended shelf life on the internet where more than a year later on december 9, 2009, the right pair of eyes finally found it. >> so i receive a strange call to my phone, was a friend.
9:21 pm
he told me, monica, mark is not what he claim to be. what do you mean? trust me. >> the next day, that friend met with monica and showed her a picture of the man she knew as mark stern. it was a printout taken from the "america's most wanted" web site. >> my entire world fall. my knees crack. what's up? it's not true. and my -- >> you didn't believe it. >> yeah. i don't believe it. >> a quick internet search confirmed the dimensions of a lie that left her dazzled and undone. her lover, mark stern, was actually mark weinberger, an international fugitive and he was apparently capable of anything. >> first think, okay, i go to the police. i know where he is. i'm sorry, mark, but -- >> you need to tell the truth. >> exactly.
9:22 pm
>> i think it was a very torturous decision, but i think at the end of the day she felt she had an obligation. i give her a tremendous amount of credit. she did the right thing. >> it was inside this police station that monica spaconi told police her lover, perhaps her lover was a wanted man. was she crying? >> not exactly. but she was very, very scared. who really was this mark she knew? >> colonel davida says soon after monica left the office, a local rental agent walked in, also complaining about a man named mark who hadn't paid his rent in three months. most important, the agency had a copy of mark weinberger's real passport. >> he left a copy of his real passport? >> a copy of his real passport, yes. >> and he's a fugitive on the run. >> yes. you can't rent a flat if you don't leave a copy of your document. >> not only did police now know
9:23 pm
monica's boyfriend and the deadbeat renter were one in the same, thanks to monica, they also knew which of three campsites he was currently using. >> she also told us mark was going to stay there for a week. >> he would be in this location for a week. >> for a week, yes. >> without her doing that, who knows if they ever would have found him? you know, it's the alps. there are a lot of places to hide. >> the next day, police put a helicopter in the air to search the area. though they saw tracks in the snow, near where monica said they would find weinberger's camp, bad weather forced them to abandon the aerial search. but even then luck seemed to be with the police. hikers just down from the mountain reported seeing something strange. >> the same day people coming down from mountain told us there was strange male leaving a tent. >> finally, on the morning of december 15, 2009, three days after monica had first tipped them off, a team of police
9:24 pm
officers set out on a cross-country trek to a remote area near the swiss border. >> in the distance, we could see a man walking around a tent. >> did he seem startled to see you? >> yes. >> and what does he say? >> they were not wearing their uniform. they approached, asking him, what are you doing here? he answered, i want to live a quiet life. >> i want to live a quiet life. >> yeah. they asked him, who are you? he answered, my name is mark weinberger. >> and that was that. after five years on the run and four months on the mountain, the search for mark weinberger was over. no confrontation, no dash for freedom. instead, the fugitive doctor posed for pictures. inside the tent, police found euros worth about $3,000, top-notch equipment, a stockpile of food and medicine. >> cialis, like viagra.
9:25 pm
and some survival medications. >> under italian law, weinberger could be held for 24 hours while police verified his identity. so mark weinberger was taken back down the mountain to the police barracks in courmayeur. >> he was in very good shape, very quiet. i ask him, are you married? i'm divorced. what's your job? i'm a surgeon. >> a surgeon? >> a surgeon. >> did he say anything about the charges against him? >> no. >> while at the police station, weinberger was given a cursory pat-down and offered lunch. >> he had food with us at our same table. >> was he hungry? >> i think, yes. also because our food is very, very -- how i say -- good. >> according to the officers at the table, weinberger seemed to be enjoying himself until the moment this bizarre story took an unexpected and desperate turn. >> what can you say about what
9:26 pm
happened next? >> we better not talk about that, please. coming up -- mark weinberger had not yet given up on escaping his past. >> he did not want to go back. it was too much a trail of devastation. i don't think they have any idea of what's going to happen. he pulls a knife out that he has concealed. >> when "the great escape" continues. great escape" continues.
9:27 pm
openturning 50 opens theuard. door to a lot of new things... like now your doctor may be talking to you about screening for colon cancer. luckily there's me, cologuard. the noninvasive test you use at home. it all starts when your doctor orders me. then it's as easy as get, go, gone. you get me when i'm delivered... right to your front door and in the privacy of your own home. there's no prep or special diet needed. you just go to the bathroom, to collect your sample. after that, i'm gone, shipped to the lab for dna testing that finds colon cancer and precancer. cologuard is not right for everyone. it is not for high risk individuals, including those with a history of colon cancer or precancer. ibd, certain hereditary cancer syndromes,
9:28 pm
or a family history of colon cancer. maybe i'll be at your door soon! ask your doctor if cologuard is right for you. covered by medicare and most major insurers. you wouldn't accept an incomplete job from any one else. why accept it from your allergy pills? flonase sensimist relieves all your worst symptoms, including nasal congestion, which most pills don't. and all from a gentle mist you can barely feel. flonase sensimist. you can barely feel. - hi,- hey!
9:29 pm
[beeping] [♪] - hmm! yummy! - pretzelrami is back, with our famous pastrami and a bigger soft pretzel roll. and try the new turkey bistro with warm turkey and smokehouse bacon. or the new hot club chicken dijon with black forest ham. the new hot pretzels, only at togos. how far would you go for a togo? - i own you, doug. i'm dara brown with the hour's top stories. the less 40 people are dead after a russian plane made an emergency landing at a moscow airport after it caught fire on saturday. investigators said they're looking into what the pilots had breached air safety rules. and president trump's former personal lawyer michael cohen is heading to prison on monday to serve his three-year sentence. he received his sentence last december for lying to congress, tax evasion, bank fraud and
9:30 pm
campaign finance violations. now back to "dateline." welcome back to "dateline extra." i'm craig melvin. it looked like the end of the line for fugitive mark weinberger. after discovering his secret past, his new girlfriend tipped off the police who then nabbed weinberger at his remote mountain campsite. he was finally in custody, but was his life on the run over? after five years on the run, the capture of mark weinberger in the italian alps was almost anti-climactic. no shootouts, car chases or international intrigue. just friendly cops chatting up an amiable american over pictures, pasta and wine. >> it's very italian and everything seems cool. >> any sense of what was about to happen next? >> none. no. i think they were shocked. he says he has to go to the
9:31 pm
bathroom, as would be police procedure, they follow him into the bathroom. i don't think they have any idea what's going to happen. >> an italian cop stood in an open doorway as weinberger sat on the toilet. then in a flash, the officer saw weinberger's hand jerked toward his own throat. >> he pulls a knife out that he has concealed and attempts to kill himself. >> though weinberger managed to inflict a superficial cut on his neck, police officers were able to stop him before he did serious damage. >> some say he was trying to attempt suicide so he would get placed in a prison hospital. i don't think he was thinking that far ahead. i think he was trying to kill himself. >> days later, while recovering in a hospital, he tried again, this time by putting a plastic bag over his head. >> he did not want to go back. there was too much, a trail of devastation. >> within a week, news of mark weinberger's arrest was
9:32 pm
everywhere. in merrillville, indiana, former patients woke to find their nose doctor on the front page. in alabama, michelle kramer, the wife he had abandoned, was just wrapping up another long day as a psychology intern when she heard the news. >> tears started coming out of my eyes and i didn't know if they were tears of joy or tears of sadness. i couldn't even identify what my emotions were. >> out in california, shawn barnes, a college student, was heading home for the holidays when her aunt called to tell her. >> i got that news, and you have all this time to think going across the country. and it was just like the strangest christmas present i ever could have imagined. >> shawn's mother phyllis barnes, remember, had been a patient of weinberger's and filed the first malpractice suit against him. >> i wasn't sure at first if it was a good or bad thing or what. >> by february 2010, arrangements for weinberger's extradition had been completed and he was back in the united states and facing a world of
9:33 pm
legal trouble. first, there was a 22-count federal criminal insurance fraud indictment charging him with billing for surgeries he didn't do and overbilling for those who did do. then hundreds of former patients were suing him for malpractice. >> what he has done to my daughter is horrific. >> remember valerie thomas' daughter kayla? she's the adorable 8-year-old who got sinus surgery from mark weinberger back in 2004 when her real problem was a brain tumor. >> he knew what he was doing. he knew that the surgery could cause me problems. >> what kind of a man do you think would skip out on all this trouble? >> a coward. >> while weinberger was chasing adventure in europe -- >> are you happy? >> i'm happy, baby. >> -- kayla thomas had been growing up with a benign tumor in her head. kayla's mom says the tumor could not be removed because extensive scar tissue from the weinberger surgery blocked access to it.
9:34 pm
>> and she's had many spinal taps since because the tumor caused increased intercranial pressure. >> a lot of things are taken day by day. i guess right now there is no other way the take it. >> she wonders what life would have been like had she never met mark weinberger. >> if they had gotten the tumor out, maybe my life now could be a little bit better. >> patients and others hoping mark weinberger would be severely punished by the criminal system were soon disappointed. several months after his return federal prosecutors offer mark weinberg area plea deal which he accepted. in addition to agreeing to plead guilty, mark weinberger would get four years in prison. >> if he gets four years, a slap on the wrist in club fed, i guarantee you he will be out somewhere, whether it's in the
9:35 pm
united states or somewhere else, practicing medicine doing the same kind of thing in some way, shape or form. >> regardless of the punishment he had ultimately received from the criminal justice system, it seemed certain the malpractice suits would keep him tied up in civil courts for years. each of them with a potential to put mark weinberger in a financial prison from which there is no parole. >> it really is not about the money. it's about getting a large judgment against this man so that he can't feel any freedom for the rest of his life. >> in march 2011, six and a half years after he disappeared into the greek night, the first malpractice case filed against mark weinberger was ready for trial in civil court. coming up -- >> weinberger, i hesitate to call him a doctor, treated phyllis barnes as nothing more than an insurance paycheck.
9:36 pm
you look into somebody's eyes and you expect some glimmer of humanity, some soul, something. he has nothing. he is a very evil person. >> nothing is ever as cut-and-dry as you believe it is. >> when "the great escape" continues. e" continues. your family's diet, coke, dr pepper and pepsi hear you. we're working together to do just that. bringing you more great tasting beverages with less sugar or no sugar at all. smaller portion sizes, clear calorie labels and reminders to think balance. because we know mom wants what's best. more beverage choices, smaller portions, less sugar. balanceus.org
9:37 pm
[spanish recording] so again, using "para", you're talking about something that is for someone. ♪ pretty good. could listening to audible inspire you to start something new?
9:38 pm
download audible and listen for a change. woman: ahh! need a change of scenery? kayak searches hundreds of travel sites and lets you see how your baggage will affect the cost of your flight, so you can be confident you're getting the right flight at the best price. kayak. search one and done. with peak season berries, fliguniqcreamy avocado.e. and a dressing fit for a goddess. come taste what a salad should be. and with panera catering, there's more to go around. panera. food as it should be. but some give their clients cookie cutter portfolios. fisher investments tailors portfolios to your goals and needs. some only call when they have something to sell. fisher calls regularly so you stay informed.
9:39 pm
and while some advisors are happy to earn commissions whether you do well or not. fisher investments fees are structured so we do better when you do better. maybe that's why most of our clients come from other money managers. fisher investments. clearly better money management. welcome back. justice has finally caught up
9:40 pm
with mark weinberger. he had pleaded guilty to federal insurance fraud and was sentenced to four years. he was also facing a simple malpractice suit filed by the estate of his new deceased patient phyllis barnes. each side would put expert witnesses on the stand to make their case. then it would be up to the jury to separate the sensational headlines about the runaway doctor from the issue at hand, his treatment of one patient. perhaps it was always there, in his eyes, a calculating gaze that could convince women to love him. >> i love you, baby. >> i love you, baby. >> persuade patients to trust him. >> i was very impressed with him. >> and make even seasoned cops believe he was harmless. >> he looked happy. >> whatever it was, the eyes that stared out from front pages after mark weinberger's capture, still had the power to move even those he had left behind. >> the look in the eyes is a look i've never seen from him,
9:41 pm
that i would have never expected to see on his face. and that -- when you care about somebody and you see that kind of look, it can't help but touch you. >> suzette dennington, once mark weinberger's top medical assistant, was one of the few willing to say a kind word about him as his legal problems mounted. >> nothing is ever as cut and dry as you believe it is. >> according to dennington, weinberger was a fine doctor simply being attacked by patients and lawyers because of the salacious tabloid aspects of his story had made him an easy target. >> i really don't think that he set out to scam the world and, you know, be guilty of all the things that they are so easily saying he's guilty of. >> attorney ken allen, however, sees it differently. >> you look into somebody's eyes and you expect some glimmer of humanity, some soul, something. he has nothing. he is a very evil person.
9:42 pm
>> in preparing to bring the phyllis barnes case to court, ken allen was able to question the runaway doctor in jail. >> i saw a very sinister person, a very sinister person. and a person who is very capable of pretending he has some measure of remorse. but i could see he was not changed or remorseful at all. >> in march 2011, more than six years after her death, the family of phyllis barnes finally got their chance to present their malpractice case against mark weinberger in a civil trial. weinberger elected not to attend. ken allen's case hinged on convincing the jury weinberger could have caught phyllis' cancer had he given her a thorough examination. allen told the jurors that phyllis barnes, a two-pack-a-day smoker had gone to see weinberger complaining of utrouble breathing, a sore
9:43 pm
throat and hoarseness. she'd even been coughling up blood. despite all of that, allen said weinberger violated standard of care by focusing exclusively on her sinuses. >> mark weinberger who was an ent doctor, ear, nose and throat, simply forgot about the e and the t and focused on the n. well, you can't do that. if you're an ent doctor, you're required to examine a patient's throat. that was one of the reasons why phyllis came to see him. weinberger didn't even bother to look at her throat. >> as if calling his next witness from the grave, ken allen played a recording of phyllis barnes on a large tv monitor. >> he told me that he only took whatever the insurance was willing to pay, and i felt like that was -- everything seemed to this was all good, that it was just sinuses and no problem. so he did order a cat scan of
9:44 pm
the sinuses and scheduled surgery. >> this, ken allen told the jury, is the cat scan dr. weinberger did of phyllis barnes' sinuses. according to experts who testified at trial, the scan showed phyllis' sinuses were actually clear. >> weinberger -- and i hesitate to call him a doctor -- treated phyllis barnes as nothing more than an insurance paycheck. >> according to the ear nose and throat doctor who discovered phyllis' throat cancer two months later, the sinus surgery was not only unnecessary, it probably caused her cancer to grow more rapidly than it might have otherwise. ken allen told the jury the reason mark weinberger recommended sinus surgery for phyllis barnes was greed. mark weinberger needed money to support his lavish lifestyle, allen told the court, and sinus surgery is what paid the bills. >> will you please tell us your name and spell your last name for the court reporter. >> michelle kramer.
9:45 pm
>> allen put weinberger's ex-wife michelle on the big screen to talk about their high life. >> we had a yacht that was in the mediterranean half the year and it was in the bahamas the other half of the year. and we would spend ten days a month usually on that yacht. >> in prerecorded testimony, michelle told the court that the phyllis barnes case weighed heavily on her husband's mind the week before he abandoned her. in greece. >> he was constantly fretting and worrying about the lawsuit, becoming increasingly paranoid and anxious. >> shawn barnes, phyllis' daughter, also told the court of the devastating effect her mother's death had on her life. her father had died of brain cancer 18 months earlier. >> i basically had to grow up overnight. suddenly had bills to pay, was in danger of losing my house and i had to go to school. i was going to work part time. i didn't have the opportunity to
9:46 pm
go out and be a college student or be a teenager because i had all of these responsibilities suddenly. >> ken allen wrapped up his case by playing the testimony he recorded of mark weinberger in jail. we can't show you the tape because the judge in the case ruled that broadcasting it would prejudice future juries. however, we can tell you that mark weinberger answered the every question the same way, more than 150 times. "on the advice of counsel, i'm asserting my fifth amendment privilege not to answer the question." after that deposition was played for the court, weinberger's attorney began his defense by admitting mark weinberger is probably not a likeable guy. but that he told the jury is but that he told the jury is beside the point. this case, he says, is about one thing and one thing only. dr. weinberger's treatment of phyllis barnes. james ho was the attorney hired by weinberger's malpractice insurer to defend him. ho did not respond to a request for an interview.
9:47 pm
however, in court he told the jury phyllis barnes needed sinus surgery. her history of chronic sinus problems not only made her an ideal candidate for weinberger's surgery, he said, but after that surgery she never again complained about her sinuses. writer buzz bissinger says that defense fits in perfectly with what he has learned about mark weinberger. >> i think mark weinberger, and i think he believes this every surgery he did was merited. he did no unnecessary surgeries. >> weinberger's lawyer had witnesses that said phyllis barnes' cancer was probably not even detectible when she first visited dr. weinberger. in fact, their lawyer said there were other medical professionals such as the emergency room doctors who had also seen phyllis barnes at about the same time and failed to detect her throat cancer. >> i would ask people just to look at it for more than just one side. >> interestingly, suzette dennington, perhaps mark weinberger's most passionate
9:48 pm
defender, was not called to testify. >> he advertised just as a sinus specialist. patients called him knowing or suspecting they had sinus problems. why is it unusual that he confirms that, yes, indeed you have that condition and why would he not offer them a surgical solution to their conditions? >> weinberger's attorney closed his case by reminding the jury the case before them only concerned dr. weinberger's treatment of one patient, not that doctor's wealth or reputation or the fact that he had fled the country. with that, the jury began deliberating on how much, if any, money should be paid by mark weinberger and his insurance company to the family of phyllis barnes. >> there is one more twist still to come, and it could end up costing mark weinberger so much more than money. coming up -- >> this is your just desserts,
9:49 pm
you [ bleep ]. >> ken allen is sharp. and when ken allen gets into a case, he is a dog with a bone. he is not going let go. i don't think he's ever lost in indiana. >> weinberger believes that he's the smartest man in the room, and today he discovered he's not. >> when "the great escape" continues. er. hi, what's this social security alert? it's a free alert if we find your social security number on the dark web. good, cuz i'm a little worried about my information getting out. oh, why's that? [bird speaking] my social security number is... 8- 7- 5 dash okay, i see. [bird laughing] is that your daughter? no, it's a macaw. and his name is timothy. timmy, want a cracker? timmy, do you want a cracker? [bird speaking] what do you think, kevin? no. sign up online for free. discover social security alerts. sign up online for free. (vo) be the first to experience augmented reality that feels like reality. be first to real time with verizon 5g ultra wideband.
9:50 pm
on verizon. was a success for lastchoicehotels.comign badda book. badda boom. this year, we're taking it up a notch. so in this commercial we see two travelers at a comfort inn with a glow around them, so people watching will be like, "wow, maybe i'll glow too if i book direct at choicehotels.com". who glows? just say, badda book. badda boom. nobody glows. he gets it. always the lowest price, guaranteed. book now at choicehotels.com
9:51 pm
9:52 pm
welcome back. jurors in the mark weinberger malpractice trial heard compelling testimony from witnesses on both side, including the doctor's wife michelle who he deserted and left with a mountain of debt. weinberg eran away to avoid confronting his legal troubles. now he sat in an indiana courtroom, already a convicted felon with millions of dollars in damages hanging in the balance. the decision was in the hands of the jury.
9:53 pm
>> after months of monotonous white, the skies over indiana turned blue on the day the case went to the jury. television truck antennas sprouted like spring crocuses, and 25-year-old shawn barnes could feel a burden lifted. >> it's been hanging over my head for at this point almost ten years. >> in this what if world of her imagination, she would still have a parent to turn to if she got into a jam. >> try not to think about it because i feel like the more i think of the what ifs, the more i just hurt myself in the long run. but in a lot of ways i feel like if i didn't have to live my life completely on my own, maybe i could get somewhere. >> shawn was still a teenager when her mother's death made her an orphan. her inheritance consisted of a small life insurance payout and a pile of debt, including a mortgage on the old house she grew up in. >> i learned every type of insurance you had to have in
9:54 pm
about a day and a half and how to pay all of these bills and i cut off my cable and i got a different phone and just how to cut down all of these costs. and it was things that no one else my age ever had to think of. >> she did get help once mark weinberger fled the country and the local press began writing about the people he left behind. with donation, loans, scholarships and part-time jobs, shawn put herself through college. in 2008, she graduated with honors. >> i had 17 years with my dad. i had 19 years with my mom. and even the bad parts were still better than some of the lives i see other people living who have parents. i wish i had both of them still. i wish i had opportunities that other people i see my age having. but i'm glad that it was really good when it was.
9:55 pm
>> it was after dark by the time the jury of four men and four women reached their unanimous decision. dr. mark weinberger had committed malpractice in the case of phyllis barnes. >> we're pleased that the jury has held mark weinberger accountable for his misdeeds. >> the jury determined that phyllis' estate should be awarded a total of $13 million in compensatory and punitive damages. >> having this verdict at least puts her to rest in the most positive way, knowing that, you know, in her passing she's bringing this man to justice. >> indiana caps malpractice awards at $1.25 million. and though mark weinberger's insurance company is on the hook for $250,000, weinberger says he's broke. still, the verdict is a significant first step in ken allen's pledge to bury mark weinberger under a mountain of debt.
9:56 pm
>> this is your just desserts, you son of a [ bleep ]. >> ken allen is a shark. when he gets a case, he is a dog with a bone. he is not going let go. i don't think he's ever lost in indiana. >> but buzz bissinger he's even a personal injury lawyer like ken allen can never tally the damage mark weinberger did to the people that cared about him, employees like suzette dennington, his wife michelle and yes, monica spaconi, the woman who turned him in. >> imagine, she's turning in the man she loves, maybe the only person she's ever really truly felt comfortable with and loved in her life. >> how deep is the scar for you? >> it's deep. it's deep. deep. >> but monica says she still cares deeply for the man she knew as mark stern and the feeling is evidently mutual. >> i receive a letter from a correctional center.
9:57 pm
>> and what did it say? >> i love you. don't forget me or don't forget the mountain. so he search to be real with me. he was i think real with me. >> it's noteworthy that shortly after mark weinberger's capture in italy, his italian girlfriend began corresponding with his american ex via facebook. >> i was picturing a thin blonde girl who was maybe about 20, 25. i was 25 when i met him. that's what i had picture. >> monica is about the opposite of you. >> yes. we shared one thing in common. he lied to her and he lied to me. and i did everything i could to get him turned in, and she actually is the person that turned him in. so we had a lot in common. >> it took a few years, but michelle kramer has moved on in her life. remember how she felt about the
9:58 pm
lawyers who had begun zeroing in on her ex-husband just before he fled? >> i think it's a bit opportunistic, but that's the state of our legal system in this country. >> she's changed her mind about that. >> i thought that the lawyers were targeting him and that he was just too cowardly to stand up and that's why he left. but i didn't think he actually did any of these things. >> but now you do. >> i do. >> you think the lawyers had a right to go after him. >> oh, yeah. i'm very glad that they did. >> whether he hopes to return to monica in the alps one day or write that book about his time there, mark weinberger will apparently have plenty of time to plan his next step. the federal judge in this courthouse rejected the plea deal weinberger had agreed to with prosecutors saying 4 1/2 years was not nearly enough given the scope of the crimes. after the judge rejected the deal, mark weinberger withdrew his guilty plea. >> it feels so god to know that he's not going to get out any time in the foreseeable future.
9:59 pm
i think everybody can rest easier knowing that. and i think my sister would be pleased with the decision. >> weinberger believes that he's the smartest man in the room, and today he discovered he's not. i think this will end for him in jail, and that's our hope. >> in 2012, dr. mark weinberger pleaded guilty to 22 counts of health care fraud. settlements were reached on malpractice claims filed by his patients. he completed his sentence in 2017. as a student of philosophy, mark weinberger is no doubt familiar with the ancient greek philosopher who wrote "a man's character can his fate." >> he was very grandiose. he was very entitled. he was haughty at times. >> for michelle kramer whose life changed in the blink of a greek sunset and many former patients and their families, the imprisonment and public shaming
10:00 pm
of dr. nose feels like a fate well deserved. >> that's all for this edition of "dateline extra." i'm craig melvin. thank you for watching. i'm craig melvin. >> and i'm natalie morales. >> and this is "dateline." >> i'm going to destroy you. the fear was terrible. i can't even describe it. it's a surreal thing. people thought i was dead. >> the attack sudden, savage. >> i saw a man standing there. >> i heard multiple shots. >> the wife, the only witness.

231 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on