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Sentence Upheld in Full for Drug Dealing Memphis Doctor

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on April 29, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Michael Patterson ran a small psychiatric practice in Memphis, Tennessee, with a fairly large side business in selling prescriptions for Percocet, Vicodin, and Adderall , among other drugs. The law eventually caught up to Patterson and he was charged with 38 counts of improperly distributing controlled substances and pleaded guilty to three of those.

Patterson contested his sentence on appeal, arguing that the district court had improperly assumed that his prescriptions weren't medically justified and unjustly categorized him as an organizer or leader of the drug dealing scheme. In a reminder of the deference afforded to finders of fact, the Sixth Circuit quickly and without much difficultly rejected each of Patterson's claims.

But I Have a Doctor's Note?

At sentencing, the government claimed Patterson had distributed 655 grams of narcotics. This number was based on the prescriptions Patterson had written to Christopher Pipkin, a drug dealer, and others. Patterson objected to that amount, which assumed that all the prescriptions had been fraudulent, as Pipkin had testified.

Under Patterson's argument, if the court improperly assumed that none of his prescriptions to Pipkin were for a legitimate purpose, then the drug quantity and the sentence stemming from it was too high. On appeal, the Sixth Circuit agreed with Patterson's assertion that the district court largely ignored the medical records Patterson presented to justify the prescriptions. In fact, it fully rejected Patterson's testimony, finding him unreliable. And that, the Sixth reminded us, is just the sort of reasonable evaluation trial courts are meant to make.

I Wasn't Paid Enough to Be an Organizer

Patterson also objected to a sentence enhancement based on his being an "organizer or leader" of a criminal activity. Under federal sentencing guidelines, an offense level may be increased upon a finding that the defendant played an "aggravating role" in the criminal activity. If the defendant was an organizer or leader in a criminal activity that involved five or more people, the offense level is increased by four levels.

Patterson essentially argued that the court must overlook the fact that he picked the time and place of the prescription transfers. Since he didn't recruit participants or take a larger cut of the proceeds, he couldn't be an organizer.

As with the drug quantities, the district court's findings were enough to support the enhancement, the Sixth ruled. The court had found that Patterson organized distribution with Pipkin, meeting him in convenient locations, notifying him when to come by the practice and the like. Since he was also trading prescriptions for sex, with women who were "apparently drug addicted and typically strippers," that activity also constituted organizing, as he induced and benefited from the behavior.

The Sixth affirmed the sentence in full, leaving little recourse left to the drug dealing doc.

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