February 18, 2004 - The Sun News (SC)

5 Doctors' Sentences Set From 2 To 24 Years

By Kenneth A. Gailliard

Former Comprehensive Care and Pain Management Center doctor Michael Jackson's repeated pleas - "I did not do this, sir" - couldn't keep him from receiving the longest of five sentences given Tuesday to five former pain center doctors in federal court.

U.S. District Judge Weston Houck sentenced Jackson to 24 years and four months in prison for his role in the illegal prescribing of narcotics, including potent painkiller OxyContin, at the pain center.
Others sentenced in connection with the illegal activities were Ricardo Alerre, 19 years and seven months; Deborah Bordeaux, 8 years and one month; and Deborah Sutherland and Thomas Devlin, two years each.

Sutherland's and Devlin's earlier guilty pleas to money-laundering charges were withdrawn.

The defendants have 10 days to appeal the sentences. All but Sutherland may have about 30 days to begin serving their time, Houck said. Lawyers for two of the defendants - Jackson and Bordeaux - indicated Tuesday that they would appeal.

After his client's sentencing, attorney Bill Nettles, who represented Alerre, said: "In the current administration, this judge had no choice but to impose the sentences he did."

Federal prosecutors have called the case the first in the state involving so many doctors and drug-related charges.

"I believe and I hope that this case has sent a clear message to the medical community that they need to be sure the controlled substances they prescribe are medically necessary," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill Day. "If doctors have a doubt whether they could get in trouble, this case should answer that."

Federal agents went after the center, which operated between 1997 and 2001, after receiving multiple complaints from police departments, pharmacists and doctors who were suspicious about the amount of narcotics prescribed at the center, Day said.

Investigators shut down the center in 2001 and subsequently charged eight doctors, three clinic employees and several former patients.

One doctor committed suicide after pleading guilty.

A 20-page indictment in June 2002 accused seven of the doctors of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances outside the usual course of medical practice, distribution of controlled substances for other than legitimate medical purposes and money laundering.

Most of those arrested pleaded guilty to lesser charges, including the center's owner, Dr. Michael Woodward, who was sentenced in September to 15 years.

A jury found Alerre, Jackson and Bordeaux guilty last year. All three were found guilty of conspiracy to unlawfully distribute and dispense controlled substances and conspiracy to launder money.

In addition, each was charged with specific counts of distribution of oxycodone, the main ingredient in OxyContin: five counts for Jackson, three for Bordeaux and seven for Alerre.

Jackson, 57, reasserted his innocence in court Tuesday.

"I've done everything by the book; I don't even have a parking ticket," Jackson said. "I think this is just a mistake the government made."

Bordeaux's husband, son and daughter spoke on her behalf, while she sat with her head lowered.

Nettles asked that Alerre's sentence be reduced for several reasons, including his age: 74. Houck rejected that motion and said the law doesn't allow sentence reductions solely because of a person's age.

"I'm convinced in my mind that Dr. Alerre is a good person; and you'll never see him in jail again, but I'm not going to break the law," Houck said.

For the latest drug war news, visit our friends and allies below

We are careful not to duplicate the efforts of other organizations, and as a grassroots coalition of prisoners and social reformers, our resources (time and money) are limited. The vast expertise and scope of the various drug reform organizations will enable you to stay informed on the ever-changing many-faceted aspects of the movement. Our colleagues in reform, they also give the latest drug war news. Please check their websites often.

The Drug Policy Alliance
Drug Reform Coordination Network
Drug Sense and The Media Awareness Project