Doctor accused in Eastern Kentucky pain-pill case avoids additional jail time

A doctor accused of improperly prescribing pain pills at an Eastern Kentucky clinic won’t have to serve additional time in jail.

Stephen C. Arny served a little over a year in jail before his conviction was overturned.

The charges remained in effect, however, and Arny later entered a plea. . At a hearing Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Joseph M. Hood sentenced Arny to the time he had already served.

Arny, a former military doctor, worked in 2010 and 2011 at a business called Paintsville Auto Accident Healthcare, which first had an office in Johnson County and later in Floyd County.

Authorities charged that the clinic was a “pill mill” — a cash-based business where doctors wrote prescriptions for drug abusers with little effort to provide real examinations or treatment.

Authorities investigated the clinic after owner Ray Douglas Stapleton arrived drunk at a traffic checkpoint in Magoffin County in October 2012. Police found 7,000 pills and $1.3 million in his vehicle and house, according to court records.

Stapleton and his wife, Tina Stapleton, along with another doctor who worked at the clinic, Emmanuel Galang Acosta, pleaded guilty to charges involving prescribing pain pills without a legitimate medical purpose.

Stapleton was sentenced to seven years and seven months in prison and his wife to four years and one month. Acosta received a sentence of one year and one day.

Jurors convicted Arny, but an attorney he hired after the trial, Kent Wicker, argued that Arny’s original attorneys didn’t adequately represent him.

U.S. District Judge Amul R. Thapar overturned Arny’s conviction, ruling that Arny’s trial attorneys didn’t call witnesses who could have helped his case and failed to prepare one witness to testify, among other problems.

Arny, 70, was released from jail after that September 2015 decision but remained under indictment. He entered an Alford plea earlier this month to a charge that he issued prescriptions for pain pills without a legitimate medical purpose, according to a court document.

Under an Alford plea, a defendant maintains his innocence but acknowledges that there is evidence to support a conviction.

His attorneys said Arny inherited patients from a doctor who left the clinic and merely continued their prescription routine, although he made efforts to reduce the amount of painkillers some received.

Hood said his decision not to hand down additional jail time was based on Arny’s age, his military service of nearly 30 years, his decision to give up his medical license and the fact he had already served nearly 13 months, according to a court record.