Former Jasper, Tn. doctor Charles Howe on Thursday was sentenced to serve three years in federal prison and to pay a $14,000 fine for illegally prescribing pain pills. Howe's medical license has also been revoked.
According to federal prosecutor Gregg Sullivan, law enforcement became aware that Howe was improperly prescribing pills when various people reported it was easy to get a pain pill prescription from him.
Law enforcement also noticed that in cases of illegal possession of pills in the area, those pills could be traced back to those written by Howe.
At this point, law enforcement began to observe Howe. From watching his clinic, they saw him meet with various women who were not current patients. When officials interviewed some of these women, they learned they were receiving prescriptions even though they were not patients.
Prosecutor Sullivan also pointed out some of these former patients had a known history of drug abuse.
He said that doctors are the "gatekeepers" with potentially dangerous drugs, and that Howe "failed to keep these drugs off the street."
Defense attorney John Cameron Jr. told the court, "Before you stands a gentleman, 72 years of age. He described Howe as "a productive member of society and a devoted husband, father, and physician."
He continued, "Unfortunately, the writing of one prescription outside the confines of his office led us to the circumstances we're in today."
Attorney Cameron asked the court to consider that the defendant's wife would be significantly affected by his absence, as she currently has chronic health problems.
He said, "My client wasn't running a pill mill where there was some scheme or design to improve his financial position."
However, prosecutor Sullivan told Judge Curtis Collier, "I don't know how many times you've heard a male or female stand before you and say, 'My family needs me.'"
He added, "That's not a consequence of our system, it's a consequence of his actions."
The prosecutor added, "We have a drug problem in this country, and the number one drug problem is prescription pills."
When given the chance to speak, Howe said, "This problem that brings me here today is most embarrassing. I don't pretend to understand it, but I do know the result...I failed my family. I failed my church. I failed my profession."