Pubdate: Wed, 18 Feb 2004
Source: Sun News (Myrtle Beach, SC)
Copyright: 2004 Sun Publishing Co.
Author: Kenneth A. Gailliard
Bookmark: (Oxycontin/Oxycodone)
Note: apparent 150 word limit on LTEs


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were withdrawn.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

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

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

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.
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