Dr. Deception: Joseph Franzetti Dispenses $300 Psych Evaluations Like They’re Flu Shots, but the Reports Are Useless

Page 5 of 7

Eventually, the "actual harm" motion — which would have deeply tarnished Franzetti's record — failed by a 6-4 vote, with two board members abstaining.

Dr. Connell suggested that at least an "advisory letter" be placed in Franzetti's file "for failing to appropriately document a late entry into the chart."

Dr. Martin said he couldn't vote for that because he was convinced that Franzetti had lied about the circumstances of the alleged "late entry" in the Cervantes file.

Connell eventually agreed with Martin and voted against his own motion, which still passed 9-3.

Dr. Franzetti wrote a brief response after the tepid conclusion to the Arizona Medical Board's case.

He said the "late entry" was a "minor cognitive oversight and had no impact on the patient's care."

Joseph Franzetti was immersed in another civil case as he evaded sanctions from the Arizona Medical Board.

The Michael Thompson case hadn't gotten media attention like the Cervantes case. But the facts about Thompson's March 2004 suicide at the Madison Street Jail were equally disturbing.

Thompson was a seriously mentally ill man who had been in and out of jails and mental institutions for much of his adult life.

He was a "management problem" — extremely difficult for staffers to control, even in the carefully monitored psych unit.

Thompson had expressed suicidal thoughts soon after he was booked into the county jail in January 2004.

Two months after that, he put a towel around his neck one day in his cell and told medical staff he wanted to jump off his bunk and kill himself.

Shortly after that, Dr. Franzetti took Mike Thompson off a Level One (the highest) suicide watch and ordered him placed alone in a cell.

That same day, May 23, 2004, a counselor noted that Thompson was "acting out" in the cell and again was threatening to hurt himself.

About 10 p.m., Thompson ripped apart his bed sheet, tied one end around his neck and the other around the bed frame and slid down to his death.

Franzetti never conducted a risk assessment on his acutely suicidal patient, nor had he communicated in any fashion with him.

Thompson's survivors sued. Again, Dr. Steven Pitt was hired by the plaintiffs to give his opinion.

An attorney representing Dr. Franzetti and Maricopa County deposed Dr. Pitt in late July 2007.

The deposition coincidentally took place just weeks after Pitt's fellow psychiatrist, Jack Potts, had written his scathing (but ignored) letter about Franzetti to the county's Juvenile Court.

"Dr. Franzetti's work is just woefully inadequate," Pitt testified this time.

"His work is incomplete. It's devoid of just the basic tenets that go with conducting a psychiatric evaluation."

Pitt told Franzetti's attorney that "the whole story is just very, very sad in terms of people not treating another human being the way they should have been treated. This was 2004. We're not back in the days of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. This is not how you treat mentally ill people in an institutional setting."

The psychiatrist concluded that Franzetti's "lack of desire to treat this man resulted in his death. End of story."

A few months after that deposition, Maricopa County agreed to pay Michael Thompson's survivors $450,000.

Last March, Tucson attorney Jojene Mills asked Dr. Franzetti in another civil deposition about the Thompson lawsuit.

Astonishingly, he said he didn't recall the suit and told Mills, "I have never talked to anybody or seen anything [about it]."

For someone in another line of work, an equivalent series of missteps may have necessitated a change of profession.

But that's not the way it has played out for Joe Franzetti.

He worked until earlier this year as a clinician for Magellan Health Services, a company that provides the bulk of mental-health and substance abuse services for Maricopa County.

Franzetti also became medical director of Youth Evaluation and Treatment Centers, and was hired to do part-time restoration/evaluation work at Rio Salado Behavioral Health Systems.

But Dr. Franzetti's most improbable new gig was his lucrative adult and juvenile contracts as a Rule 11 mental-health evaluator for Maricopa County.

New Times was preparing a story on Franzetti's financial bonanza and his fraudulent Rule 11 reports when a new issue arose earlier this month.

That was when an August 25 incident at the Estrella Jail came to light in which Franzetti allegedly acted inappropriately — an understatement, if true — with female inmate Kelley McNaughton.

McNaughton, a 29-year-old facing prison time on theft and other charges, told several people about it, including her attorney, her mother, a jail psychiatrist, and fellow inmates.

She has claimed that Franzetti flirted with her for almost three hours after conducting his usual brief her Rule 11 evaluation in a jail visitation area.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.