- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 10, 2014

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) - A California doctor known as the “Candy Man” has withdrawn his guilty plea to illegally prescribing painkillers after alleging he was poorly advised by his previous attorney.

Julio Diaz, who operated the Family Medical Clinic in Santa Barbara, withdrew his January plea to 11 felony counts on Wednesday because he had been misadvised about his sentence and was unaware federal prosecutors would introduce evidence alleging his prescriptions were connected to 20 deaths, said Kate Corrigan, his current lawyer.

“It was very clear the discovery was never shared with the defendant, he was never advised of any of this, and he was misadvised,” Corrigan said after U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney ruled that Diaz could withdraw his plea. “This is basic sentencing 101 material.”

Corrigan said she will seek to have bail reinstated for Diaz, who has been jailed since he entered the guilty plea. A trial is now scheduled for May 19.

The unusual twist in the case comes nearly three years after Diaz was arrested at his Goleta home. Authorities accuse Diaz of supplying OxyContin, Vicodin, Norco and other drugs to addicts with no legitimate need for the powerful narcotics.

Ann Luotto Wolf, an assistant U.S. attorney, said she had concerns about Diaz’s legal representation at the time of his plea - which carried a sentence ranging from one to 200 years - but felt the court had extensively informed him about the consequences.

“Now, we’ll have a trial, so that will be obviously a very detailed, in-depth presentation,” she said, adding that the government contends Diaz wrote thousands of prescriptions and is linked to 20 deaths.

Diaz, who faces 88 counts of distributing a controlled substance, is not charged in connection with the deaths. Investigators have said he was known as the “Candy Man” by some of his patients and described as a doctor who could get anything for his clientele.

Diaz’s former lawyer, Michael Guisti, said he felt he had been misled about the sentence his client was likely to receive and was pleased the judge granted Diaz’s request.

“If he chooses to go to trial, my prayers are with him,” Guisti said.

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