New York Times reporter Alex Berenson has been asked to appear in federal court next month to answer testimony that a judge said implicated him in a “conspiracy” to obtain confidential documents regarding Eli Lilly’s Zyprexa, the Associated Press reported.
Berenson wrote a number of articles late last year saying Lilly downplayed the risks of its anti-psychotic drug Zyprexa and marketed it for unapproved uses, charges Lilly has denied.
Jack Weinstein, a judge in US District Court for the Eastern District of New York, invited Berenson to voluntarily appear in court on Feb. 7 and explain how he got the documents, which had been sealed by the court.
Weinstein said Berenson could be accompanied by his attorney and would be subject to cross-examination.
Times spokeswoman Diane McNulty told the AP that the publication was reviewing papers in the matter, including the invitation, and would respond to the judge “in due course.”
“We believe our reporting in this matter was very newsworthy and was derived from routine newsgathering procedures,” McNulty added.
Weinstein wrote in his filing that he was asking Berenson to appear after hearing testimony from James Gottstein, an Alaska-based lawyer named in Berenson’s stories as the source of the documents.
“This invitation is intended to permit Alex Berenson to confront testimony received at a hearing in this court on January 16-17 implicating him in a conspiracy to obtain and publish confidential documents sealed by this court,” Weinstein wrote.
Lilly said it had no role in the judge’s decision to ask Berenson to appear.
Lilly spokesman Phil Belt told the AP he didn’t know whether Berenson was involved in a conspiracy but that the company would be interested in hearing what he would tell the judge.
Lilly has settled 28,500 Zyprexa-related lawsuits and there are another 1,200 outstanding, Belt said.