Pubdate: Tue, 29 Apr 2003
Source: Daily Independent, The (KY)
Copyright: 2003 The Daily Independent, Inc.
Author: Ben Fields


Jury - 16 Years For Santos

Formal Sentencing On 7 Counts Of Illegally Prescribing Controlled 
Substances Set For May 22

GREENUP - A physician who wrote prescriptions for cash at a South Shore 
clinic was found guilty Monday by a Greenup County jury on seven counts of 
illegally prescribing controlled substances.

Closing arguments in the case against Dr. Rodolfo Santos, 65, wrapped up 
late morning, and the jury deliberated more than five hours. Santos spent 
much of that time talking with his attorney and family sitting on the 
benches by the Ohio River outside the county courthouse annex.

When the guilty verdict was returned, Santos' wife, Donna, and 14-year-old 
son, Anthony, broke down in tears. Santos himself remained somewhat stoic.

The jury recommended sentences of two or three years on each count - five 
years was the maximum - and that the time be served consecutively, for a 
total of 16 years. Formal sentencing will be May 22.

Santos will be eligible for parole in three-and-a-half to four years, 
according to Commonwealth's Attorney Clifford Duvall.

Defense attorney Michael Curtis said Santos was "upset" with the outcome.

"But, when you look at the total number of prescriptions (Santos wrote), it 
was probably something that he just couldn't overcome," Curtis said.

The attorney said evidence that Santos wrote some 11,000 prescriptions for 
the controlled substance Lorcet, a form of hydrocodone, during his 13 
months at Plaza Healthcare in South Shore was probably particularly damaging.

But jury foreman Carolyn Massie of Russell said the group was less swayed 
by number of prescriptions than by the evidence from one case - that of 
Mary Reed.

The charges against Santos stem from Reed's visit to his office, during 
which she wore a wire as a paid informant.

Reed complained of neck, back and knee pain, and Santos prescribed Lorcet, 
along with the anti-anxiety drug Xanax and muscle relaxant Soma.

The fact that Santos prescribed these medications with little examination 
of the patient was a critical point in the jury's eyes, Massie said.

"She goes in with no file, no history, and Santos prescribes controlled 
substances," Massie said.

Massie said the testimony of David Herbert Procter, the owner of Plaza 
Healthcare who hired Santos and who pleaded guilty Monday to federal drug 
and conspiracy charges, played little part in the jury's decision-making 

Procter took the stand as a surprise rebuttal witness in the Santos case 
Friday, when he contradicted the defendant's testimony that he was trying 
to run a respectable pain-management clinic, as well as other aspects of 
Santos' story.

Procter, who has admitted to prescribing drugs in return for sexual favors, 
and who hired a string of doctors to write prescriptions for cash at Plaza 
Healthcare after losing his own medical license, said he made it clear to 
Santos from the start that it was a drugs for cash operation, and that all 
the patients to come through would be drug addicts.

He said he paid Santos $2,500 a week, plus a weekly cash bonus ranging from 
$500 to $700, depending on how many patients Santos saw and how many 
prescriptions he wrote. Procter claimed he encouraged Santos to see more 
patients daily to make more money, and Santos obliged, seeing as many as 60 
to 70 patients a day.

But Massie said she and other members of the jury felt Procter took the 
stand for his own benefit, in the form of a potentially reduced sentence in 
federal court, rather than the benefit of the jury - a point hammered upon 
by Curtis during his closing argument - despite the fact that testifying in 
the Santos case was not part of Procter's plea agreement.

"He hadn't been sentenced yet when he testified," Massie said. "Some things 
he said, yes, we believed him. Others, no."

Massie declined to comment on the sentence recommended by the jury.

Larry Bailey, a 60-year-old Grayson resident and father of 35-year-old Paul 
Bailey - one of seven patients to allegedly die of overdoses of medication 
Santos prescribed - said he wished the sentence had been more harsh.

Bailey said he did not feel vindicated by the verdict, even though he had 
"prayed for it."

"I look at his family and I see true sorrow," Bailey said. "I feel sorry 
for his family. They don't deserve this. But, my son's family didn't 
deserve what we went through, either."

Duvall, who called upon the jury to "send a message" in the sentencing 
phase of the trial, said he felt that request was answered.

"Sixteen years is pretty hefty for a guy who's 65 years old," Duvall said. 
"I think it will be a long time before the rest of the state looks at 
Greenup County as the hydrocodone capital of the Bluegrass."

Curtis had asked the jury take Santos' age into consideration during 

Curtis said Santos, who spoke to the media after Procter took the stand 
Friday, did not want to make any public statements until his sentencing.

Santos did not take the stand during the sentencing phase of the trail. He 
remains free on $20,000 cash bond.

"Right now he just wants to go home," Curtis said.

He said he also felt the jury "sent a message" in its verdict and 
sentencing, but the message was one that would be "chilling" to doctors 

"The message is people in pain are not going to get pain medicine," he said.

Duvall said he doubts that, adding the only doctors who are getting chills 
are the wrong kind of doctors.

"People in Santos' waiting room were throwing bottles at each other and 
getting in fights and slashing tires in the parking lot ... I don't think 
it was that wild in the Old West," Duvall said. "I don't think good doctors 
have anything to worry about."

Duvall said he felt the sentence was "fair," adding he thought Procter's 
testimony against his former employee and Reed's cooperation with 
authorities were warnings to any doctors considering getting into a pill 
mill operation.

"Even the drug-seekers, even your cohorts ... They'll all turn on you when 
the time comes," Duvall said. "It's not like honor among thieves."
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MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart