Victims await full disclosure

Wednesday, February 27, 2002

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Barbara Wibbenmeyer says her mug shot should hang on the wall of Robert R. Courtney's prison cell.

"I think he needs to see my face every day," said Wibbenmeyer, 47, a cancer sufferer who says she took some of Courtney's diluted cancer medications.

Courtney, 49, pleaded guilty Tuesday to 20 federal counts of tampering and adulterating or misbranding the chemotherapy drugs Taxol and Gemzar.

Wibbenmeyer and many of the hundreds in her position say they are pleased the agreement requires Courtney to tell authorities about all his crimes.

"Probably, it's the best thing we can do for the victims at this point," she said after Courtney entered his plea. "It starts putting closure to the wheres and the whens."

But she and many of the 300 or so alleged victims who are suing Courtney and drug makers Eli Lilly & Co. and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. say the druggist's prison term won't be long enough.

"It would scare me to think that he could be released at any time," said Delia Chelston, 67, of Independence, who took Taxol prepared by Courtney to fight her ovarian cancer. She is suing him in Jackson County Court.

U.S. Attorney Todd Graves defended the prison term's range, saying prosecutors had no guarantee they would get even 17 years if Courtney was convicted after a trial.

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