(Update) Gosnell makes bizarre rambling self-defense before receiving 30-year sentence

Kermit Gosnell
Dr. Kermit Gosnell. Credit: Metro file photo

Kermit Barron Gosnell, 72, was sentenced this afternoon to 30 years on federal charges that he illegally sold prescriptions for controlled substances from his West Philadelphia clinic, where he also engaged in the abortion activities that resulted in three murder convictions and a sentence of three consecutive life sentences in state court earlier this year.

Gosnell was also ordered to pay $250,000. His state and federal sentences will run concurrent to each other.

Gosnell pled guilty in July to federal drug charges of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, distributing controlled substances and maintaining a “drug premises.”

Gosnell accepted cash payments for prescriptions to oxycodone, OxyContin, Xanax, and Codeine issued from his Women’s Medical Society at 38th and Lancaster streets in West Philadelphia.

Between June 2008 and February 2010, Gosnell illegally sold prescriptions for more than 700,000 pills of controlled substances, with no examination or only cursory examinations, contradictory to medical standards, prosecutors said. His clinic was raided on February 18, 2010 by city and federal authorities.

Federal investigators found that Gosnell would sometimes sign up to 200 prescriptions a night, and in some instances issued as many as 50 different prescriptions to just one person.

While Gosnell was selling prescriptions to drugs, he was also offering abortions in substandard conditions and for late-stage pregnancies. He was convicted in May of killing three viable babies by severing their spinal cords with scissors. The substandard abortions were only discovered as part of the federal drug investigation, court records show.

Gosnell wore a dark green jumpsuit and white slippers to his sentencing on Monday afternoon. He smiled at reporters and law enforcement agents in the audience as he entered the courtroom.

The hearing began with a lengthy discussion of an eight-page single-spaced letter Gosnell sent to U.S. District Judge Cynthia M. Rufe objecting to certain language in federal prosecutors’ documents. Judge Rufe sustained his objection and ordered that one paragraph, repeating allegations from a grand jury report that were not sustained at trial, referring to blood on the floors of his clinic and a flea-infested cat wandered through the facility, be stricken from the record.

Gosnell then went on to make a bizarre, rambling allocution statement defending his life, his actions, and speaking vaguely about his opinions on a range of issues.

Gosnell claimed that he left a “lucrative academic career” to serve his community of West Philadelphia, where his grandparents lived after relocating from the South, he said.

Gosnell spoke of himself as a “transactional interactionist,” saying that reward and incentive based psychological treatment could improve outcomes for the incarcerated, and he spoke vaguely about the issues of improving mental health treatment in prisons, ending teenage violence, and over-incarceration in the United States. He said he is sending letters to U.S. Attorney Eric Holder and federal Bureau of Prisons director Charles Samuels about his thoughts on these issues.

Going on to defend his medical practice, Gosnell said that he spent extensive time with his patients, asking about their futures, and that he prescribed them controlled substances to help treat mental illnesses. However, he then contradicted this by saying that that he could not cut off prescriptions during the winter because his patients’ musculoskeletal complaints were worst during that season. Finally, he said that he did not schedule follow-up appointments for patients, and instead just kept re-prescribing them medications, because he believed his patients would not show up for follow-ups out of fear that Gosnell would cut off their prescriptions.

“Isn’t that a bright red light to stop the prescriptions?” Judge Rufe asked at this point.

Gosnell responded that he wanted to trust his patients.

“I did not see the abuse. I did not realize OxyContin could be filtered down and injected,” Gosnell said. “I was well-intentioned, not a vicious manipulator … ‘pill mill’ – I don’t feel that applies.”

Defense attorney Jack McMahon added that he has received hundreds of phone calls and letters and been stopped on the street by people who were helped by Dr. Gosnell. He said Gosnell let people pay what they could afford, with one client paying Gosnell by building him a fence.

But a drug dealer cooperating with federal authorities was able to obtain 18 prescription for eight different people on one day at Gosnell’s clinic.

Gosnell’s records also show that a single person picked up prescriptions for 52 people, some of whom didn’t exist.

A cooperating witness for the government also found records showing that Gosnell signed prescriptions for 960 pills on Nov. 19, 2009 – the same night that Karnamaya Mongar, 41, died in his clinic during a late-stage abortion procedure from a fatal overdose.

Federal investigators found nearly $250,000 in cash at Gosnell’s home when they executed their search warrant on Feb. 18, 2010.

“The defendant wreaked havoc in Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania,” said assistant U.S. attorney Jessica Natali at the sentencing hearing. “He didn’t care about that community, he preyed on that community.”

Follow Sam Newhouse on Twitter: @scnewhouse

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