BOSTON — Barry Cadden, head of a drug compounding firm blamed for a meningitis outbreak that killed 76 people, was sentenced to nine years in prison after his conviction on racketeering and mail fraud charges.
The sentence was imposed Monday by U.S. District Judge Richard G. Stearns after a lengthy hearing in which victims of the outbreak pleaded for the maximum possible sentence.
Stearns rejected both the call for a 35-year sentence from federal prosecutors as well as a plea for a three-year sentence made by Cadden's lawyer.
Stearns said he would have imposed a more severe sentence had he been convinced that Cadden, 50, knew that the drugs being shipped by his New England Compounding Center (NECC) of Framingham, Mass., were potentially lethal.
Stearns also was critical of regulators who failed to act against Cadden's company sooner. Only the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recognized the magnitude of the outbreak.
Cadden was one of 14 people indicted Dec. 16, 2014, after a two-year federal investigation of the 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak that sickened 758 patients in 23 states, killing 76 of them. Tennessee, Michigan, Virginia and Indiana were the hardest hit.
Cadden was found guilty March 22 of this year after a 10-week trial. He was convicted on 57 counts of racketeering, conspiracy and mail fraud, but cleared of 25 counts of second-degree murder.
Cadden was president, part owner and chief pharmacist for the NECC, the company blamed for the meningitis outbreak.
Before imposing the sentence, Stearns heard from more than 20 victims of the outbreak, including Patricia Martin, whose mother, Mary, died.
Describing her mother's death as "horrible," Martin said her mother was an active person cutting her own lawn and washing her own car until late September 2012 when she was injected with a steroid from Cadden's company.
Stating that her mother put her trust in the medical establishment, Martin said, "Don't let my mother's death be in vain."
In a tearful presentation just before sentencing, Cadden said it broke his heart to read and hear the statements of victims who suffered because of drugs shipped by his company.
With his voice breaking with emotion, Cadden said he was especially sorry for the toll the tragedy brought on his wife and sons.
In their sentencing memorandum, in which they called for a 35-year prison sentence, prosecutors charged that Cadden displayed an "unconscionable disregard for the lives of the patients using his drugs."
And they cited a series of so-called aggravating circumstances that justified a harsher than normal sentence. Those included the fact that there were multiple vulnerable victims, that Cadden was an authority figure and his actions and inaction created a "substantial risk of death or bodily injury."
Cadden's legal team acknowledged that their client was not guiltless but insisted that he had no reason to believe the drugs being shipped by his company were not sterile. They asked Stearns to impose a sentence of three years or less.
Cadden's lawyers also cited what they described as comparable cases of other drug compounders who were charged criminally but never served any jail time. A Tennessee druggist, David Newbaker, was given a probationary sentence after being cited for many of the same violations as NECC.
In a Texas case, the druggist was charged with a misdemeanor, Cadden's lawyer, Bruce Singal, noted in a 60-page sentencing memo.
Singal wrote that none of the crimes his client was convicted of "comes anywhere close to warranting a life sentence."
Two other of Cadden's co-defendants, Douglas and Lisa Conigliaro, pleaded guilty to vastly reduced charges. Two others were acquitted of all charges. Glenn Chin, 48, is scheduled to go on trial in September and he, like Cadden, has been charged with second-degree murder.
Robert Ronzio, NECC's director of sales, already has pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge and awaits sentencing. He testified extensively during Cadden's trial, delivering key testimony for prosecutors.
After the sentencing victims expressed varying reactions. Martin said she was satisfied with the decision and appreciated the judge's explanation.
Other victims, however, said they were upset that their testimony appeared to have no impact.