A local doctor who pleaded guilty to a felony charge avoids time in prison. A few months back, Dr. Michael Pendleton admitted to keeping false prescription records. He was sentenced to five years probation in federal court on Tuesday. Pendleton faced up to four years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Sam Fugate, defense attorney for Pendleton, says it was an appropriate sentence for his client. Federal prosecutors also recommended a five-year probation sentence for the doctor.
"He’s happy to get this behind him — or this chapter behind him — in his life and move on," Fugate says.
KRIS 6 News first spoke with Dr. Pendleton in December 2013, when he told us about his policy in prescribing pain medications to his patients. During that time, he said, "We just want to make sure everybody knows we’re doing it safely, conscientiously, and we understand what our responsibility is to the community for narcotics."
Just three months earlier, law enforcement launched an investigation into his office. During that probe, agents conducted eight undercover visits to Dr. Pendleton’s office. They say he prescribed hydrocodone during seven of them.
Following a raid in 2016, agents concluded that Pendleton had left out information that he was required to provide in his prescription records of the hydrocodone and other controlled substances.
Fugate argues that there was never any malicious intent on Dr. Pendleton’s part, saying, "This is not an opiate case. I know it started out with somewhat of an accusation on that but … this is just a recording violation."
However, it puts a felony conviction on the doctor’s record. Before learning his punishment and while addressing the court, Pendleton broke down in front of the judge on Tuesday. Fighting back tears, he thanked the Corpus Christi community for "allowing me to be their doctor."
"He realizes that this has cost him a great deal as far as his rights as a citizen," Fugate explains.
However, Pendleton is still practicing medicine. His medical office remains open. Also, his skills led to U.S. District Judge Jack Rainey ordering the doctor to perform 100 hours of community service of free medical care to those in need.
"This is not a matter of whether or not he’s a good or bad doctor," Fugate says about the case. "He’s a good doctor and he’s a good man."
Pendleton will be required to complete the 100,000 hours of community service during his first two years of probation. He also received a $5,000 fine.