A federal judge ordered yesterday that law enforcement officials be allowed to review the private patient files of Paul J. Peckar, a Fairfax County psychiatrist who was seriously injured Friday when he opened a package containing a pipe bomb.
Rejecting objections raised by Peckar's family about patient-physician confidentiality, U.S. District Judge James C. Cacheris in Alexandria ruled there was "a compelling need" to allow investigators to review Peckar's patient files for possible leads or suspects in the case.
Under the court order, the record review will be conducted by two psychiatrists. Park Deitz, chosen by the government, was described by U.S. Attorney Henry E. Hudson as "an expert in the field of bomb threats." Army Maj. John K. Plewes was selected by the Peckar family.
If either doctor identifies individuals or case histories that raise concerns, they will present the information to Cacheris in private, according to the order. If the judge finds "sufficient information" in those records, it will be made available to investigators.
Peckar, 50, of Riverside Road in Mount Vernon, was burned over 55 percent of his body and suffered severe abdominal injuries at midday last Friday when he opened a mail bomb delivered to his office in the Sherwood Hall Medical Center on Sherwood Hall Lane. He remained in critical condition yesterday.
Fairfax Supervisor Gerald Hyland, a family friend representing the Peckars, told the court yesterday that Pam Peckar, the doctor's wife, "wants to do nothing that impedes the investigation into the attempt on her husband's life."
Hyland added, however, that the family felt the privacy of Peckar's 55 patients should be respected.
Hyland said after the ruling that using psychiatrists in the review provided about the best balance possible between "the need of the government to investigate this case with the need of Dr. Peckar to protect the privacy of his clients."
Law enforcement officials said the examination of Peckar's files will begin this week. Hudson, who said the government had made every effort to honor the sensitivity of Peckar's files, told the court that "the psychiatrists can review these records in two, three days."