A former Cleveland, Tenn., doctor pleaded guilty Monday to writing illegal prescriptions when he worked for a North Georgia weight management clinic.
Yet Norman Neal's attorney claims his client wasn't responsible for shelling out painkillers to a large client base across the state, but was writing the prescriptions for his own medical condition.
"Catoosa County was just convinced it was a pill mill, and that's just not what they had," said Robert Stultz, Neal's attorney.
In March 2011, federal and local investigators shut down Doctor's Health Center where Neal worked. During the search, police said, they found more than two dozen blank prescriptions, several inside Neal's car.
At the time, Neal was charged with 24 counts of signing blank prescriptions and five counts of illegally possessing controlled substances.
The clinic's owner said she never saw Neal illegally prescribing hydrocodone and Xanax to patients and didn't notice heavy traffic in the parking lot.
When Neal was indicted, he wasn't charged with all 29 counts of drug abuse.
In Catoosa County, Neal was indicted on four counts of unlawful possession of hydrocodone and four counts related to writing illegal prescriptions. Prosecutors also indicted him in Walker County on seven charges, including five counts of fraud in obtaining controlled substance.
Stultz said police didn't have proof Neal was writing illegal prescriptions to anyone but himself.
Lookout Mountain Assistant District Attorney Alan Norton didn't return calls seeking comment. No one at the Catoosa County Sheriff's Office was available for comment on the case.
Neal suffers from restless leg syndrome, an impairing disorder, Stultz said, and that's why he was writing pain medication prescriptions to treat the condition.
At a sentencing hearing that hasn't been set, Neal will prove where the prescriptions were going, Stultz said. That's why he will ask a judge for probation instead of jail time, he said.
When Neal was arrested, both his Georgia and Tennessee medical licenses were suspended.
Contact staff writer Joy Lukachick at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6659.