Towson doctor given 7 years

Keenan was convicted of conspiring to make drug

`You are something of an enigma'

July 01, 2005|By Matthew Dolan | Matthew Dolan,SUN STAFF

A federal judge sentenced a former Towson diet doctor yesterday to seven years in prison for conspiring to cook up the drug Ecstasy, rejecting prosecutors' call for a much harsher punishment of three decades behind bars and a $2 million fine.

"To this court, you are something of an enigma," U.S. District Judge Andre M. Davis told Dr. Robert M. Keenan at the end of a two-hour hearing in Baltimore.

Keenan apologized for having "dropped the ball" in supervising wayward workers who had tried to illegally manufacture Ecstasy in his Fells Point home, but Davis rebuked him.

"The evidence in this case belies what you just said," the judge said. "The evidence in this case shows you were not just asleep at the wheel."

Davis concluded that jurors in the case had reached a "sound" decision in April when they found that the 46-year-old physician had participated in an effort to make Ecstasy and then attempted and failed to manufacture mass quantities of the mood-enhancing synthetic drug commonly known as X.

To prosecutors, Keenan was no better than an illegal drug dealer, giving co-defendants the necessary chemicals and allowing them to use his waterfront condo to make Ecstasy.

Keenan's "conduct was absolutely outrageous," Assistant U.S. Attorney George L. Russell III argued at yesterday's hearing. "People could have easily died or become sick."

Russell said later he was pleased by the sentence but declined to comment further.

In many ways, Keenan could not have fallen any farther. He was once beloved, called "Dr. Bob" by patients who visited his clinics in Towson and Columbia that generated millions of dollars in revenues.

With keys to a Mercedes and Jaguar, he lived well in Baltimore County and slept at his Fells Point home if he felt like drinking and playing pool with buddies in the city, according to prosecutors.

In recent years, federal drug investigators came after him, questioning whether the homemade concoctions Keenan manufactured were legitimate. Agents with the Food and Drug Administration and the Drug Enforcement Administration raided his offices, investigating whether he was improperly manufacturing diet drugs that turned bulk phentermine powder into homemade appetite-suppressant pills.

Keenan tried to hold his ground, losing millions of dollars of diet pills through seizures but staying out of jail and keeping his medical license and diet clinics.

Criminal charges against Keenan did not come until one of his co-conspirators turned on him, prosecutors said.

In January of last year, a confidential informant told police that he helped assemble an Ecstasy ring that included Keenan.

Later that month, Baltimore police and federal agents raided homes in the 900 block of Fell St. and the 1100 block of Baylis St. Authorities found Keenan in his Fell Street home. Police said they found a lab manual in the bathroom.

At a separate residence in Baltimore and at his office at Elite Weight Management Center in Towson, they found virtual cookbooks for manufacturing Ecstasy.

Keenan's defense attorney, Michael E. Kaminkow, described his client as a well-educated man who had only a longstanding interest in academic research on illegal drugs. He argued for a five-year prison sentence.

There was no Ecstasy found in Keenan's possession, Kaminkow reminded the judge yesterday. Court testimony also showed that Ecstasy could not have been made from the materials found in Keenan's home.

Prosecutors insisted that the ambitious drug ring boldly planned its success and that its leaders put it all down on paper. One ledger seized appeared to show projections of more than $1.3 million in drug sales in six months.

"Why did he do this?" Russell said of Keenan. "He did it for greed."

At the sentencing yesterday, Keenan could have received up to 40 years in prison. Russell and fellow prosecutor Philip S. Jackson had sought a penalty of 30 years in prison plus the maximum $2 million fine.

During a raid of Keenan's Fells Point home, investigators found a green liquid precursor to Ecstasy "oozing from one end" of a sealed pipe in his heated oven. Russell said that the makeshift drug lab could have been a grave threat to the surrounding community.

Prosecutors based their argument for seeking a lengthy sentence on how much of the drug could have been churned out if the lab had been successful. They estimated the amount at 2.5 kilograms, or 5.5 pounds.

However, Davis dealt prosecutors a blow, ruling that the amount of drugs should be estimated at 1 kilogram, or 2.2 pounds.

Exactly how much of the illegal drug Keenan could have created was critical to his sentencing.

Congress mandated in recent years that Ecstasy violations should be sentenced more like those involving highly addictive drugs like heroin and cocaine.

In March 2001, the U.S. Sentencing Commission, under pressure from Congress, quadrupled the federal guidelines for sale of 200 grams of Ecstasy from sentences of 15 months to five years - an equivalent penalty for dealing 500 grams of powdered cocaine.

This year, the Supreme Court ruled that those guidelines should be viewed by judges as advisory rather than mandatory.

As a result, Davis, an avowed critic of sentences calculated largely by the amount of illegal drugs involved, had more flexibility in meting out Keenan's punishment. He went below the federal guidelines, which had a recommended sentence between about eight to 10 years in prison.

"You seem to have helped a lot of people," Davis told Keenan.

Though he said Keenan's crimes were extremely serious, the judge added: "I don't think you need to be deterred."

Davis rejected the idea of any fine, saying that Keenan was already in bankruptcy.

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