A seemingly never-ending case against a suspended Tredyffrin doctor convicted of operating a narcotics mill at his Strafford home-office hit another delay yesterday.
After years of battling Richard A. Brown - a tortured history replete with appeals that dates back to Brown’s first arrest in 2001 — prosecutors want to move forward with a state drug forefeiture proceeding. But Brown’s attorney, Stephen I. Baer, questioned the impartiality of Chester County Court Senior Judge Ronald C. Nagle, who has been overseeing the case for more than five years, and the judge agreed to step aside.
At issue is approximately $1.2 million in assets that prosecutors say Brown, 67, illegally obtained by distributing hundreds of painkillers to known drug addicts without even a cursory medical exam.
In May 2003, Brown pleaded no contest to a single drug violation and was given five years' probation; however, police said he resumed his illicit operation, arresting him a second time in 2007. A jury convicted him in February, and Nagle sentenced him to eight to 16 years in prison.
Nagle dismissed suggestions that he had ruled unfairly against Brown and his wife, Janice K. Brown, 54, a licensed pharmacist who argued unsuccessfully that the house the couple owned jointly should be spared from the proceeding because she had no knowledge of her husband’s crimes. “I sleep soundly at night,” the judge said, assessing his many decisions in the case. However, he said “the judge should not be the focus” of the proceeding. “For that reason, I recuse myself,” he said.
Baer was pleased with the ruling. “The motion for recusal was brought because we felt that Judge Nagle - due to his knowledge about my clients and the long history of this case - could not remain impartial,” Baer said.
Those details include the fact that Brown once sued doctors who gave him a scathing evaluation during a medical rotation for defamation. He lost the case, but his failing grades did not prevent him from receiving a medical license, according to testimony. Officials said he obtained it by forging documents. Whether that information will become known to the judge who inherits the case is unknown.
State Senior Deputy Attorney General Nancy S. Hartsough and Chester County Assistant District Attorney Christopher L. de Barrena-Sarobe took the latest delay in stride, but they strongly disputed Baer’s suggestion that Nagle had treated Brown harshly. Hartsough pointed out that a Bucks County doctor received a 30-year sentence for similar conduct, and she wondered if Brown’s decision to start over with a new judge may would become an example of “be careful what you wish for.”