Wednesday, January 7, 2015

90 Year Old Federal Judge Sentences 79 Year Old Physician to 5 Years For Distributing Hydrocodone and Money Laundering in Los Angeles Federal Court

(Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times)
Here is a follow-up on a blog post about a physician Dr. Andrew Sun who had plead guilty to one count of distributing hydrocodone in federal court in Los Angeles on June 19, 2014. The case took a different turn in that Judge Real refused to take Dr.Sun's plea. This occurs if at the change of plea hearing the defendant does not agree that there is a factual basis for the plea. The case was then set for trial and a three day trial was held in August 2014.

At the trial, Dr. Sun was found guilty on numerous counts of distributing hydrocodone (21 USC Section 841(a)(1) and money laundering (18 USC 1956(a)(1)). On January 5, 2015, Judge Real sentenced Dr. Sun to 63 months in federal prison. Judge Real essentially gave a 3 year term on each of 17 distributing hydrocodone counts and ordered that they run concurrently (at the same time). On the two money laundering counts, there was a sentence of 1 year on each count with those counts. Judge Real allowed Dr. Sun to have until February 2015 to self surrender.

The age of the physician is an interesting fact here. The U.S. Attorney's Office sought a sentence of 20 years while the defense argued for community services and no prison time. Judge Real in imposing a 5 year sentence on a man who is almost 80 years' old seemed to take age into account as well as the other facts and circumstances brought out at trial. Interestingly, Judge Real is approximately 90 years' old and has a reputation for being compassionate towards defendants and believes in rehabilitation. The Los Angeles Times article on this case can be found here. It is an interesting testament to how we are living longer and how certain professionals can practice late into their life.

However, as professionals age there needs to be some realistic checks into their capacity to run medical practices and work at a load they did earlier in their career. Dr. Sun's attorneys noted in their sentencing brief that Dr. Sun began having problems with the Medical Board and in other areas and questioned whether his age, pride, dementia or senility were a factor but did not have any evidence to use that as a defense. It is unfortunate that this is how he is ending his medical career, I am seeing a number of cases involving older professionals who have lost their judgment on what the professions require of them, are unwilling to retire for many understandable reasons, and get themselves into legal difficulties that they never had for the first 40 years of their careers.

Posted by Tracy Green, Esq.


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