Chris Christensen takes the stand

Dr. Chris Christensen testified in Hamilton this week during his trial on 22 opioid-related drug charges. Closing arguments are expected in he trial, which entered its fourth week, on Thursday.

HAMILTON — The defense rested Tuesday after the trial of Florence physician Chris Christensen took a decidedly combative turn.

The tension in the air was palpable as Deputy County Attorney Thorin Geist sparred with Christensen over everything from his role in the death of his patients in Montana and Idaho to whether Christensen considered himself a pain treatment specialist.

The latter prompted one of the more humorous moments in Christensen’s trial, in which he is charged with two counts of negligent homicide, nine counts of criminal endangerment, and 11 counts of distributing dangerous drugs. Two patients to whom Christensen prescribed opioids died of overdoses, and the criminal endangerment counts concern nine other patients.

On Monday, Christensen testified that he was a member of the American Pain Society and the American Academy of Pain Management.

On Tuesday, Geist asked Christensen if he knew that he and Geist were colleagues.

“I signed up yesterday to be part of the American Pain Society. Apparently they even let lawyers in,” Geist said. “That’s a premier organization?”

“Are you asking me if your membership changes it from being premier? No, it doesn’t,” Christensen responded.

Geist often asked Christensen about a transcript of comments he made to federal agents after his medical practice was shut down on April 1, 2014. Geist would read a portion of a statement to make a point, with Christensen following up with the rest of his statement to make his own point. That prompted various exchanges about whether what was in the transcript was what he said, with Christensen often responding that the statement wasn’t being interpreted correctly.

In another exchange, Geist asked why Christensen didn’t run a particular test, and he replied that he couldn’t afford the $53,000 piece of equipment.

“So you did it to save money for you?” Geist asked.

“I don’t think that requires an answer,” Christensen responded.

“It’s a question I asked. So answer it,” Geist replied.

Their exchange went on for about two hours. Defense Attorney Josh Van de Wetering rested his case, and Geist brought back one of two rebuttal witnesses. Closing arguments are expected to take place Thursday.

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