Prosecutors argue for 30-year prison term for pharmacist

Sunday, November 17, 2002

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A former pharmacist who admitted diluting thousands of prescriptions should receive the maximum 30-year sentence allowed under a plea agreement, prosecutors argued Friday.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Gene Porter called Robert R. Courtney "cold-blooded," "heinous" and "sadistically cruel" in a court filing that laid out arguments for a long prison term. Courtney, 50, is scheduled for sentencing Dec. 5.

After he was charged, Courtney told the FBI that greed motivated him to dilute the drugs. But when he pleaded guilty he told the judge he had searched his soul and could find "no rational explanation."

In his plea agreement, Courtney admitted diluting the expensive cancer drugs Taxol and Gemzar for 34 patients on 158 separate occasions between March and June 2001.

But since then he has admitted to diluting drugs as far back as 1992, affecting as many as 4,200 patients.

"Tampering with a patient's cancer drugs for one's personal and financial profit is unusually heinous and sadistically cruel," Porter wrote.

Attorneys for Courtney, who has been jailed since his arrest, said they were reviewing Porter's sentencing recommendations.

"We will be filing, on Mr. Courtney's behalf, a response by Nov. 22, and then actively preparing for the hearing on Dec. 5," said J.R. Hobbs, an attorney for Courtney.

Prosecutors also recommended that Smith set up a two-part restitution program to distribute more than $8 million in Courtney's personal and corporate assets that have been frozen by the court.

Porter suggested that Smith order restitution to a group of victims detailed in Courtney's presentence report. Courtney's plea agreement limits his victims to the 34 patients whose medicines he admitted diluting.

But Porter suggested that after sentencing, U.S. District Judge Ortrie Smith hold a second hearing to determine whether Courtney injured other people. Those victims identified in the second hearing could be entitled to restitution from Courtney's remaining assets.

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