George C. Daniel, a former National Institutes of Health physician who was a fugitive for 3 1/2 years, was sentenced yesterday to 52 months in prison for illegally dispensing addictive prescription drugs.
U.S. District Senior Judge Herbert N. Maletz said Daniel would be eligible for parole after serving one-third of his sentence. His lawyer, William H. Murphy Jr., said Daniel already has served one year in prison and should be eligible for release in five to seven months.
Daniel, 44, an endocrinologist from Potomac, was convicted by a federal jury last year of two counts of illegally prescribing dangerous drugs, including Dilaudid, Demerol and Percodan, to government agents posing as patients. He was acquitted of seven other counts.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Harvey E. Eisenberg called Daniel an "opportunist." While remaining a citizen of his native Dominican Republic, Daniel obtained a $46,000 scholarship reserved for U.S. citizens to Yale Medical School and a fellowship at the National Institutes of Health.
He said Daniel was ordered to post a $200,000 bond when he was first prosecuted for the offenses, but that he then sold the five properties he had put up as collateral and fled the country. He said Daniel stayed on the run for 3 1/2 years until he was arrested in Honolulu last September.
Mr. Eisenberg requested a sentence of five years for the prescription charges and 3 1/2 years for the time spent as a fugitive.
Mr. Murphy asked the judge to credit his client for the year he'd already served and to order him released.
"You could send him off for some more jail, and I suppose a rational argument could be made for that," Mr. Murphy said. "Or you can say a year's enough. If a doctor can't learn that in our society you can't do what Dr. Daniel did, then more time isn't going to be a deterrent."
He said that his client -- whose medical license has been suspended -- treated government agents appropriately when they visited his office and lied to him about having severe pain. He acknowledged that Daniel's behavior was wrong, but said that he had prescribed the minimum dosages, no more than any other physician would have prescribed.
Mr. Murphy said the amount of the active ingredients prescribed was less than one gram in each case. "No one said that would be enough to addict anybody," the lawyer said.
Daniel said he was "trapped, persuaded" by agents to prescribe the drugs.
"I did it with the intention that I was genuinely helping these people," he said, adding later that "I'm very sorry that I got caught up in what transpired. The greatest regret is the suffering I caused my wife and child and family."
Judge Maletz, however, said Daniel was arrogant during his long statement in which he argued that he had not intended to commit a crime.
"The court finds in your attitude, Dr. Daniel, a complete and utter lack of remorse," he said, adding that he would receive the same treatment the same as any other defendant.