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A federal judge on Monday
slashed prison sentences for three former doctors from a now-closed Myrtle Beach
pain clinic where federal prosecutors say drugs were illegally prescribed.
In a federal courtroom in Florence, U.S. District Judge Weston Houck changed
Michael Jackson's sentence to 30 months from 292, and Deborah Bordeaux's and
Ricardo Alerre's to 24 months from 97 and 235, respectively, prosecutors said.
Monday's resentencing hearing was scheduled after a federal appeals court ruled
in 2005 that Houck, who first sentenced the three in 2004, could have used more
discretion in those sentences.
The trio are the only doctors from the former Comprehensive Care and Pain
Management Center, which operated in Myrtle Beach between 1997 and 2001, who
have yet to begin serving prison sentences.
"These three doctors just got lucky," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill Day, who
prosecuted the doctors.
The three had appeals pending when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that federal
judges, when sentencing, could stray from the strict federal sentencing
Prosecutors said that in passing the sentence Monday, Houck noted that Alerre,
Jackson and Bordeaux, as doctors, were different from most drug dealers, and
because they no longer have medical licenses, they are no threat to society.
"If you're going to be sentenced, this is an excellent sentence," said Lionel
Lofton, a Charleston lawyer who represented Alerre, the senior of the three
doctors at 79 years old.
He said 19½ years would have amounted to "a death sentence" for his client, who
is now retired. "It was a major victory."
Lawyers for the doctors said they do not intend to appeal the sentences.
Day, who objected to the new sentences, said federal authorities haven't decided
whether to appeal.
Eli Stutsman, an appellate lawyer who represented all three doctors on appeal,
said while he agrees with Monday's sentences, he plans to ask the U.S. Supreme
Court to review the doctors' conviction, which was upheld in 2005 by the Fourth
Circuit Court of Appeals.
Meanwhile, the doctors await notice from federal authorities of the dates they
must report to prison. Those dates were uncertain Monday.
In 2002, a federal grand jury indicted eight doctors, including one who
committed suicide before he could go to trial, on charges related to the illegal
distribution of the potent pain killer OxyContin and other narcotics.
Most of the former doctors began serving sentences soon after their 2004
convictions, including Michael Woodward, the clinic's owner, who pleaded guilty
and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Federal prosecutors said the Myrtle Beach clinic had become widely known in
South Carolina and in other states as a place where narcotics could be obtained
Authorities said nearly $6 million went through the clinic during the time it
Shutting down the clinic hasn't stopped the distribution of OxyContin in South
Carolina, said Jon Ozaluk, assistant special agent in charge of the U.S. Drug
Enforcement Agency in South Carolina, but he said Myrtle Beach is no longer a
central location for distribution of the drug.
"We still have a demand for illegal OxyContin in the state, but by dismantling
that group of physicians we don't see people from across the state and other
states going there anymore," he said.
Shutting down the pain clinic has forced addicts to seek narcotics in new
places, Ozaluk said.
"Unfortunately it's a routine occurrence to have investigations of those types
of cases [illegal narcotics distribution] open in our office because of the
demand of the pills," Ozaluk said.
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