Former University of Maryland pharmacologist Clinton B. McCracken pleaded not guilty Wednesday to multiple drug charges after his lawyer and a state prosecutor could not reach a plea agreement. Trial was set for March 25 in Baltimore Circuit Court.
"Obviously we're looking for no jail time," David B. Irwin, McCracken's lawyer, said after the arraignment. "The state wants a more severe penalty than we do."
McCracken, 33, was charged in late September after his 29-year-old fiancee, Carrie John, a fellow pharmacologist at Maryland, died after injecting what she and McCracken thought was the narcotic buprenorphine, according to court records.
John's autopsy revealed that she in fact had no drugs in her system and instead died from an allergic reaction made worse by her asthma. The finding suggested that McCracken had ordered bogus drugs from an online pharmacy in the Philippines, based on information he provided to police.
Irwin has signaled that McCracken intends to plead guilty to growing marijuana, a felony that carries a maximum prison term of five years.
Prosecutor Timothy Lake offered a five-year sentence with all but one year suspended and three years of supervised probation, said Margaret Burns, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore state's attorney's office. At a bench conference, Judge David Young made a counter-offer suspending all but six months of the jail time, Burns said.
Irwin rejected both offers and entered a not-guilty plea for McCracken, beside him in court. In this case state sentencing guidelines call for a range from probation to one year, Burns said, putting the prosecution's offer at the high end.
McCracken, who no longer works at Maryland, is a Canadian citizen. Irwin said pleading guilty would force him to leave the United States, his home for the past decade. It is unclear whether he would have to stay in Maryland to serve supervised probation, if that were part of a sentence.
John's death pulled back the curtain on an apparently secret life of drug use that the two doctoral researchers had kept hidden from family, friends and colleagues at their respective labs. Police who responded to their Ridgely's Delight rowhouse found an extensive marijuana growing operation.
While McCracken is not charged in connection with John's death, his lawyer has acknowledged that he grew marijuana, one of 14 counts against him. Irwin described his client as a "regular" marijuana user who got mixed up in intravenous drug use.