EBENSBURG – A Johnstown doctor who was charged with improperly prescribing drugs to a patient who died of an overdose pleaded guilty Monday to a misdemeanor count of involuntary manslaughter.
Richard J. Green, 65, also entered guilty pleas to two third-degree felony counts of violating the “provider prohibited acts” section of Title 62 of the Pennsylvania Crimes Code, which, among other things, bars medical providers from submitting improper claims for Medicaid reimbursement.
Judge David J. Tulowitzki scheduled Green’s sentencing for Dec. 14 and ordered a routine pre-sentence investigation.
Senior Deputy Attorney General Jeff Baxter told Tulowitzki that the prosecution will ask for a sentence of four to 23 months’ incarceration, followed by periods of house arrest and probation; Green’s attorney, Art McQuillan, is expected to recommend a sentence of intermediate punishment.
McQuillan submitted letters to the court indicating that Green has voluntarily surrendered his medical license and his Drug Enforcement Agency registration certificate and will not seek to have either reinstated at any future time.
Green was charged by the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General in April with drug delivery resulting in death, a more serious charge than those to which he ultimately pleaded guilty, in connection with the death of patient Sherri Istvan, who was found dead in a Johnstown motel room in May 2018.
Toxicology testing revealed that Istvan’s death had been caused by overdoses of alprazolam, oxycodone and quetiapine, the generic names for the brand-name medications Xanax, Percocet and Seroquel, respectively.
Istvan’s boyfriend, identified in court documents by the initials “J.M.,” told investigators that Green had overprescribed narcotics to both of them and that the medications that caused Istvan’s death had been prescribed to her by Green days earlier, according to an affidavit of probable cause.
An expert hired by the prosecution reviewed Istvan’s medical records and found she had overdosed and been hospitalized five times between 2013 and 2017; the primary drugs involved in four of those overdoses had been prescribed to her by Green, according to the affidavit. (The fifth was caused by heroin.)
That expert alleged that Green ignored Istvan’s “exceedingly high-risk” behavior when he continued to prescribe narcotics to her after her overdoses.