Originally published in Palm Beach Post
The former doctor once charged with the murder of a patient at a Jeff George-run pain clinic was sentenced to four years’ probation Friday on a single charge of illegally selling Xanax to Donald Trump’s former chef.
The sentence against Gerald Klein comes nearly six months after a jury acquitted him of first-degree murder charges in the 2009 overdose death of Joseph “Joey” Bartolucci. But he was convicted of selling Xanax for another patient, Donald Trump’s former chef Alejandro Pino.
Assistant State Attorney John Parnifiello asked for six months jail and five years of probation. Defense attorneys Sam Rabin and Michael R. Band asked for three years’ probation.
“You honor I’m truly sorry in retrospect I made a terrible decision by deciding to work at that clinic. I wish I could rewind the tape and choose differently,” Klein told the judge before he was sentenced, later begging the judge: “Please restore him to my family.”
Miller also heard from Klein’s daughter, Wendy, who described her father as a hero who she watched save lives of premature children as she was growing up. She looked up to him so much, she said, that his work as a doctor led her to become a doctor as well.
“Doctors are not perfect people, we too make mistakes. The place my father chose to work was one I think he deeply regrets,” Wendy Klein said.
Before jurors mostly cleared Klein of criminal wrongdoing in September, Pino testified that the former pediatric surgeon prescribed him large quantities of Xanax at the East Coast Pain Clinic even though Klein knew Pino was in court-ordered rehab for substance abuse issues.
Based on the conviction, Miller could have theoretically sentenced Klein to up to five years in prison. Instead, she sentenced him to the 13 days he’s already served at the Palm Beach County Jail as part of his four-year probation terms. The judge also revoked the 81-year-old’s driver’s license for a year and has ordered him to complete 240 hours of community service.
It’s a light sentence compared to the 15-year prison sentence that the clinic’s manager, Theodore Obermeyer, received from Circuit Judge Joseph Marx this year, but both he and Jeff George pleaded guilty to second degree murder as part of deals they made with state prosecutors who were pinning their hopes on a murder conviction against Klein.
George, who state and federal prosecutors say worked with twin brother Chris to amass a $43 million pill mill empire that was once the largest of its kind in the nation, received a 20-year sentence.
Klein, after hearing that he wouldn’t be going to jail, walked outside the courtroom and hugged relatives. He said he was satisfied with the sentence and relieved to be going home.
Rabin told Miller that according to local sentencing norms, the vast majority of people with similar scores to Klein’s under Florida’s criminal punishment codes received sentences that involved no jail time. When Miller pronounced her sentence, Rabin sighed heavily and patted his client’s back.
“Of course we disagree with the fact that he was prosecuted at all, but under the circumstances, and based on the jury’s conviction we feel that this was a fair and appropriate sentence,” Rabin said.