COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A Chicago doctor convicted of causing the deaths of four patients who overdosed on pain pills is claiming he is innocent and demanding to be released from jail.
Dr. Paul Volkman says his treatment of patients was consistent with actions of a doctor, not a drug dealer.
Referring to himself as "V," Volkman made his argument in a 28-page handwritten document filed Monday in federal court in Cincinnati after he fired his attorneys earlier this month.
"In fact, at trial there was no evidence or testimonials presented to the jury that V ever exhibited any of the behaviors or characteristics commonly identified with a drug dealer," Volkman wrote. "V's medical charts, his former patients, and his nurses testified that his real conduct was that of a pain management physician and nothing else."
Volkman said he kept a regular office, obtained patients' prior treatment records, performed physicals to verify their condition, and required patients to sign forms promising to take the medication as prescribed.
U.S. District Court Judge Sandra Beckwith was scheduled Tuesday to sentence Volkman, who is facing 20 years in prison under federal sentencing guidelines.
Volkman was also convicted of eight other distribution counts that prosecutors said resulted in fatal overdoses but did not leave enough evidence to convict him of the deaths.
Federal prosecutors have asked for the harshest penalty possible, saying Volkman's actions destroyed many lives.
"Volkman acted not out of any medical purpose, but out of greed," Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Wright said in a filing earlier this year. "This criminal conduct had devastating consequences to the community Volkman was supposed to serve."
A 2007 indictment alleged Volkman went to work at the Tri-State Health Care and Pain Management clinic in southern Ohio in 2003. The clinic was operated by a mother and daughter who have since pleaded guilty to one count of operating Tri-State as a place whose primary purpose was the illegal distribution of prescription drugs.
Denise Huffman and her daughter, Alice Huffman Ball, both testified against Volkman at trial. Alice Huffman was sentenced to five years in prison last year, while Denise Huffman was also scheduled for sentencing Tuesday.
The indictment said patients came from hundreds of miles away and were charged $125 to $200 in cash for visits to see a doctor.
Prosecutors said Volkman rarely, if ever, counseled patients on alternative treatments for pain, such as physical therapy, surgery or addiction counseling. Volkman denied the allegations and said he always acted in good faith.
The Drug Enforcement Administration has identified southern Ohio as one of the hardest hit spots in the country for painkiller abuse. Overdose deaths driven by prescription painkiller abuse are now the leading cause of accidental death in Ohio over car crashes.
Volkman declined to testify at the trial that saw 70 government witnesses, including pharmacists, police investigators, clinic employees and patients who received pills from Volkman.
Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached at http://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.