Written by Joe Scotchie Friday, 23 July 2010 00:00
“Justice was not done today.”
That was the statement from Drug Free Massapequa (DFM), following the July 15 hearing in the case of Dr. Sanji Francis, the Merrick-based physician accused of selling prescription drugs to undercover police.
Prosecutors in the case were asking for a two-year prison term in an upstate New York facility, with five months probation.
However, after deliberations, Judge Stephen Jaeger promised a sentence of no greater than six months in a local prison and five years probation. The actual sentencing will take place on Sept. 20.
Both the prosecutors and DFM members were disappointed with the decision.
“The people were (and still are) seeking two years in an upstate prison facility with maximum Post Release Supervision,” said Teresa Corrigan, the assistant district attorney who was prosecuting the case for Nassau County. “The court promised a sentence of no greater than six months in a local jail with five years probation. The promise of the court is obviously not OK with the prosecution. We have not and will not agree to that sentence. Under our law, the prosecution doesn’t have to agree once the defendant pleads guilty to the top charges against him. I will make a full statement at the time of sentencing which explains all of this.”
At a hearing in February, the defendant was denied Judicial Diversion, something that was strongly opposed by DFM members. But the promised sentencing was a keen letdown for DFM.
“We need every person to reach out and find families that had children who used Dr. Francis,” the DFM statement read. “We are very discouraged with the legal system. Law enforcement sentencing is more severe on addicts than on the actual criminals.”
As they did in February, DFM members were out in force at the Thursday sentencing. So many people came to Judge Jaeger’s chambers that they had to wait in the hall while other cases were being heard. The sentencing room at the State Supreme Court Building on 252 Old Country Rd. was packed with DFM members and supporters hoping to see a protracted jail term handed down. Also in attendance was Terry Kroll, mother of Timothy Kroll, the late Copiague youth who first reported the defendant to the police.
Right from the defendant’s arrest in December 2009, the case has been one of great interest to DFM and the entire Massapequa community. When DFM made its successful opposition to granting Judicial Diversion for the defendant, it garnered a petition that had over 2,000 signatures.
The arrest of Dr. Francis and the ongoing court proceedings also dramaticized the local drug problem that organizations such as DFM and YES Community Counsel are dedicated to fighting.
According to Nassau County police, Francis while at his office located at 4999 Merrick Rd., did knowingly and unlawfully sell prescriptions of Oxycodone (a schedule II controlled substance) to another on nine different dates, from Aug. 1 to Dec. 8, 2009.
The defendant, detectives added, received anywhere from $480 to $600 for the prescriptions.
At a Dec. 9, 2009 press conference, Police Commissioner Lawrence W. Mulvey thanked the Massapequa community for their sense of awareness that helped to lead to the investigation and eventual arrest of Francis.
“He [Francis] damaged our community’s greatest asset, our young people,” Mulvey said. “Now he will pay for that by losing his freedom and perhaps a multimillion dollar home in a gated community.”
Mulvey said that the defendant had been sought out by local youths battling addictions for both heroin and pain medication.
Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice issued her own statement on the arrest.
“This doctor was selling drugs across the street from Massapequa High School,” she noted. “Dangerous painkillers like these are often the gateway to more lethal opiates like heroin, and this community right now is ground zero in our battle against the Island’s heroin epidemic. This arrest represents an important victory in our fight.”