COEUR d’ALENE — A Silver Valley physician who was found guilty of more than 60 counts of illegally dispensing opiates will serve 16 years in prison, a federal judge ruled Wednesday in Coeur d’Alene.
Dr. Rafael Beier was indicted on 71 counts of conspiracy, drug distribution and distributing opiates to people under the age of 21, for writing illegal prescriptions over a three-year period between 2011 and 2014, but several of the counts were dismissed in the course of the proceedings.
At his sentencing in U.S. District Court, Beier listened quietly and without emotion as prosecutor Tracy Whelan laid out her case before U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge, outlining the amount of opiates, the number of prescriptions illegally written and the names of lives indelibly affected by Beier’s conduct.
When it came his turn to speak, Beier was brief.
“They have made me out to be a monster,” said a frail-looking Beier, 63, “And I am not.”
Beier, a highly trained physician who operated a clinic in Pinehurst, one of many out-of-the-way places he worked in rural Idaho that included Lapwai on the Nez Perce Indian Reservation, was convicted by a jury of illegally writing prescriptions to clients, including many who were under 21 years old.
During the years that authorities tracked Beier after being alerted to his activities, the estranged father of nine children often spent nights at Stateline Showgirls in Post Falls, where he was known among employees as “Dr. Psycho,” according to news reports, and began dating a 20-year-old.
After being confronted by authorities, Beier “fled into the hills behind his house,” Whelan told the court Wednesday. And later, “hid out in a trailer” on his property in Kingston, failing to appear in court until his arrest.
He seemed distracted in court Wednesday, wearing yellow jail pajama pants and a white sweatshirt, as he sat beside his attorney, Stephen R. Hormel of Spokane.
Federal drug guidelines use a marijuana equivalent when referring to opioids. Whelan said Beier was responsible for the distribution of the equivalent of more than 2,000 kilograms, or about two tons of marijuana. The figures were based on the amount of hydrocodone, OxyContin and Adderall — opioids that are a high risk for addiction and dependence — for which Beier wrote illegal prescriptions over the three years, often to people he had not met.
Hormel pleaded to the court to take into account the traumatic brain injuries suffered by his client making him delusional, resulting in the illegal drug activities.
Expert witnesses including Drs. Richard Adler, a forensic and clinical psychiatrist, and clinical neuropsychologist Craig Beaver testified at Beier’s trial last year that the defendant’s traumatic brain injury had resulted in his criminal activity, a diagnosis Lodge called, “interesting.”
Lodge said the statements at Wednesday’s hearing by two of Beier’s children were heartbreaking.
“It breaks your heart to see this,” Lodge said. “I know they love their father.”
In the end however, Lodge said their dad’s decisions were the cause of the suffering.
“(He) let greed, sexual satisfaction and the power of a prescription pad cloud his judgment,” Lodge said.
Lodge sentenced Beier to 192 months in prison without a chance for parole, for 63 felony drug counts, less than what prosecutors had asked for, and near the bottom of the federal sentencing guidelines, Lodge said.
Prosecutors asked Beier be sentenced up to 235 months, or 19 years based on the amount of drugs involved and the number of the charges.
The defense and family wanted the judge to consider Beier’s medical record, and the number of people he had served over his career, and asked for a five-year sentence.
Beier, who was born in Germany, may not serve the entire 16 years, attorneys said. If he is released earlier for good behavior, he would be subject to supervised probation.