After 13 years sober, Dr. Michael E. Smith's addiction flared again, he said in court, driven in part by his father's death. And to pay for it, the former veterinarian admittedly wrote prescriptions illegally.
He used the money to fund his own drug habit, all seemingly to self-medicate his depression and anxiety. His voice quavered as he struggled to tell the court how his life had deteriorated since his arrest. Months later, the 53-year-old and his wife have filed for bankruptcy, and he lost his business.
"I confess my sins to God and the court and ask for guidance and help instead of incarceration," Smith read from a prepared statement before Judge Kelly Cottrill. "I stand before you humbled and remorseful and repentant."
But Cottrill was unswayed by the plea, and he reminded Smith that his status meant "you're the gatekeeper" to abusable drugs that he allowed onto the streets. For that, Smith will serve two years in prison, Cottrill ruled.
He must also voluntarily surrender his DEA registration and no longer write prescriptions.
Smith's family and friends packed the courtroom for his sentencing hearing Monday, and Cottrill acknowledged that many of them wrote letters in support of the former veterinarian. Many wept openly throughout the hearing.
"You're beloved by many, many people," Cottrill told him.
Smith, 100 Sally Road, was arrested in February after a state, city and county investigation uncovered an inordinate amount of prescriptions for a certain pain reliever, guns and other records.
Smith was indicted on 37 counts related to the investigation. The state dropped the majority of those charges in exchange for his guilty plea.
He pleaded to 10 counts of illegal processing of drug documents, a fourth-degree felony, and one weapons charge, a third-degree felony. Judge Cottrill sentenced him to 17 months on each illegal processing charge and 24 months in prison on the gun charge.
Those will all run concurrently. He was credited with 159 days of jail.
The remaining charges were dismissed, including 15 counts of trafficking in drugs, hydromorphone (Dilaudid), second-degree felonies; one count of trafficking in drugs, hydromorphone (Dilaudid), a third-degree felony; another nine counts of illegal processing of drug documents, fourth-degree felonies; and an additional weapons charge, a third-degree felony.
Hydromorphone is an opioid derived from morphine. Authorities opened the investigation after the number of Smith’s Dilaudid prescriptions raised red flags with the Ohio Board of Pharmacy, the Times Recorder previously reported.
Members of the community and local pharmacies alerted authorities to possible suspicious drug activity, which resulted in a search warrant being served at his residence.
Authorities seized guns, drugs and records, according to the Muskingum County Sheriff’s Office.
The investigation included the sheriff’s office, Ohio Board of Pharmacy, Zanesville Police Department, Central Ohio Drug Enforcement Task Force, prosecutor’s office and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
Two other defendants have also been sentenced in the case, including Smith's son.
Eryn R. Smith, 25, received community control sanctions in August after pleading guilty to two fourth-degree felonies, attempted trafficking in drugs and illegal processing of drug documents.
Travis E. Ryan, 35, was also sentenced to prison on Monday. He was indicted on one count of deception to obtain dangerous drugs, hydromorphone (Dilaudid), a second-degree felony; possession of drugs, oxycodone/APAP, a third-degree felony; deception to obtain dangerous drugs, oxycodone/APAP, a third-degree felony; and illegal processing of drug documents, hydromorphone (Dilaudid), a third-degree felony.
A fourth suspect, 29-year-old Andrew R. May, has been indicted in the case but is still at-large. His last known address is 408 Eppley Ave.
Published by zanesvilletimesrecorder.com