GREENCASTLE, Ind. (AP) — A central Indiana physician has pleaded guilty to charges that he excessively prescribed narcotics, which authorities said were sometimes exchanged for sexual encounters with female patients.
State officials suspended the medical license for Ray Howell, 57, of Roachdale after his arrest in October, but the plea agreement with prosecutors entered in court Thursday would prohibit him from practicing medicine again, the Banner Graphic reported (http://bit.ly/PHu9y4 ).
Putnam County Prosecutor Tim Bookwalter said he plans during Howell's Aug. 13 sentencing hearing to have some of his former patients testify about his reckless prescription writing and sexual advances.
"I consider this a serious case, because in the last 18 months, prescription drug abuse has overshadowed meth in our community," Bookwalter said.
Federal Drug Enforcement Agency officials also are expected to testify concerning the number of prescriptions Howell was writing, a figure that topped 11,000 per year at one point.
"When I first saw those numbers, I didn't believe them," Bookwalter said.
Howell pleaded guilty to five charges, including unlawful distribution of oxycodone and other pain medications. Prosecutors agreed to dismiss the other 10 charges against Howell.
Authorities said some patients seeking narcotics traveled more than 100 miles to Howell's Tri-County Medical Clinic in Roachdale. The office in the town some 30 miles west of Indianapolis has been closed since his arrest.
Howell said little during Thursday's court hearing, giving mostly one-word answers to the judge.
Howell became noticeably irritated when he took the witness stand and defense attorney Dennis Zahn ran though the list of counts to which he was pleading guilty.
"Didn't we already cover this once?" Howell asked in his longest statement in court.
His voice audibly cracked when he answered the judge's question about whether he understood the terms of the plea agreement meant he would never again hold a medical license.
"That's one of the most important things, that he's giving up his medical license," Bookwalter said.
Information from: (Greencastle) Banner Graphic, http://www.bannergraphic.com