Tipped that a Baltimore County doctor was illegally prescribing narcotic painkillers, an undercover state trooper went to the physician's office, posing as an addict in need of the drug.
The undercover officer, Sgt. Wayne Jirsa, got a prescription for 80 tablets of Percocet, an addictive painkiller, without so much as an examination. He also got something else.
Dr. Hector Feliciano, 49, of Edgemere, required Jirsa to undergo "The Divine Spirit" ritual, in which the physician sang a religious song in a strange language, one the doctor said even he didn't understand.
"This is the language of the spirit," he told Jirsa, who was then made to pay $2 for this religious treatment.
The ritual, which was repeated on two later occasions at Feliciano's office in the 7200 block of North Point Road, was recalled yesterday in Baltimore County Circuit Court, where Feliciano pleaded guilty to writing an illegal prescription.
In exchange for his plea to the misdemeanor charge, the state dropped two counts of the more serious charge of felony distribution of narcotics.
Judge John Grason Turnbull accepted Feliciano's plea, then postponed sentencing until May 15 so that a presentence background investigation could be done.
Feliciano faces a maximum penalty of two years in prison. Had the case gone to trial and he had been convicted of the more serious felony counts, he would have faced a maximum of 40 years in prison.
Joan Harris, the assistant county state's attorney who executed the agreement yesterday, said she did not know why the bargain was struck by another prosecutor, who was out of town.
"This is not my case," she said.
Under the agreement, Robert Green, Feliciano's lawyer, will be free to argue at sentencing that Turnbull grant his client probation before judgment on the misdemeanor charge.
Harris said the state will oppose probation before judgment for Feliciano, noting that such a finding would mean the charge could later be expunged from court records, as if he were never charged.
Feliciano, who has remained on $25,000 bail since his arrest last September, also remains suspended from the practice of medicine in Maryland.
J. Michael Compton, the acting executive director of the State Board of Physician Quality Assurance, said the court case will have no effect on Feliciano's suspended license.
For Feliciano to regain his license, he must convince the board that he will follow safe practices in the future. "The burden of proof is on him," said Compton.
In a nine-page suspension order dated Sept. 10, 1990, the board noted that Feliciano had prescribed massive quantities of Percocet and other narcotic painkillers to three patients over a year's time.
Further noting that the prescriptions were made in "progressively higher quantities," the board found that Feliciano was fostering drug dependence and his actions could not "be justified as a legitimate treatment of any medical condition."
Thus, the board found, Feliciano "poses a grave risk and imminent danger to the public health, safety and welfare of the citizens of the state of Maryland."