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Doctor gets 63 years in OxyContin deaths case

©Associated Press

March 23, 2002


MILTON -- A doctor convicted of manslaughter in the deaths of four patients who overdosed on the painkiller OxyContin and other drugs received a sentence of nearly 63 years in prison Friday.

MILTON -- A doctor convicted of manslaughter in the deaths of four patients who overdosed on the painkiller OxyContin and other drugs received a sentence of nearly 63 years in prison Friday.

Dr. James Graves was the nation's first doctor to be found guilty of manslaughter or murder in an OxyContin death.

Graves remained defiant, telling prosecutor Russell Edgar that one day both of them would have to "stand before God."

"I pray to God something will change and somehow (Edgar) will come to know Christ," Graves told Circuit Judge Kenneth Bell.

Edgar said Graves was not practicing medicine but was selling drugs by writing prescriptions for addicts and dealers.

"There's moral bankruptcy here," Edgar said. "He has shown no remorse for the deaths and suffering he has caused."

A jury found Graves guilty last month of manslaughter, unlawful delivery of a controlled substance and racketeering. The judge said state guidelines called for a sentence of nearly 39 years to 138 years.

"A lawful sentence for all practical purposes will be a life sentence" for the 55-year-old Graves, Bell said in imposing a sentence of 62 years and 11 months in prison.

Edgar estimated that the former Navy doctor netted about $750,000 over two years practicing in nearby Pace, but he said no one knows what happened to the money. Graves has been declared indigent and taxpayers are paying the nearly $300,000 cost of his defense.

Graves, who had a family medicine and pain management practice, testified that patients lied to him about their symptoms and no one would have died had they taken the drugs as prescribed.

In court Friday, Graves recited Bible verses and accused the father of victim Jeffrey Daniels, 30, of rejecting his son because he had become an addict. He suggested that Daniels may have killed himself.

Later, Daniels' father, Lester Daniels, grew angry and started to get up from his seat because the doctor turned and smiled. It happened while Graves' wife, Alicia, was addressing the court while standing about 6 feet from Daniels. Courtroom deputies quickly stepped forward and told Daniels to sit down, and the judge ordered a recess.

"As long as he never sees outside prison walls, that's great for me," Daniels said after sentencing. "He's slime. He's pure slime."

Alicia Graves blamed drug and medical regulatory agencies for failing to take action if they thought there was a problem.

"This could have been resolved," she said. "These people would still have been alive."

To counter defense testimony that Graves was of good character, the prosecution called Tamara Losito, 34, of Panama City, to the witness stand.

She testified she met Graves on the Internet last year while he was free on bond. Graves claimed to be single and a member of the surgical team that reattached a boy's arm after it was bitten off by a shark near Pensacola, she said.

The doctor met her for dinner and a movie, made sexual advances and took her to a Pensacola church, Losito testified.

Graves said he was just trying to get Losito to join a church-based singles group instead of looking for dates on the Internet. He also accused her of having an affair with a minister, which she returned to the witness stand to deny.

The federal Drug Enforcement Administration has blamed OxyContin for 117 deaths in the past two years and suspects it caused an additional 179.

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