By Scott Sonner
RENO—A Nevada doctor branded a “monster with a stethoscope” by the father of an opioid overdose victim was sentenced to 10 years in prison Monday for involuntary manslaughter and illegal distribution of a controlled substance.
Dr. Robert Rand turned and apologized directly to Michael Yenick’s family in the federal courtroom before the sentencing for his role in an illegal prescription painkiller ring that already has sent several other defendants to prison.
The 54-year-old Reno physician could have faced a maximum 28 years in prison. His lawyers thought he’d be sentenced to less than seven years after admitting his guilt as part of a plea bargain agreement.
But federal prosecutors said during the seven-hour hearing in U.S. District Court the deal was off because Rand failed to show proper remorse or take full responsibility for his actions, including writing prescriptions for oxycodone and other opioids that led to the 2015 death of Yenick, 33, a former University of Nevada football player.
U.S. Judge Miranda Du ordered 10 years on the manslaughter charge and eight years on the drug charge but said he can serve the sentences concurrently. She also ordered him to serve three years’ probation upon his release, pay a $25,000 fine and nearly $12,000 in restitution to cover the Yenick family’s funeral costs.“It is physicians like Dr. Rand through their ignorance and reckless indifference … who are the enablers who’ve contributed to the opioid crisis in our country,” Du said.
Prosecutors said Rand prescribed more than 1.2 million oxycodone pills and other opioids in 2014 and 2015 — more than 500,000 more than any other doctor in northern Nevada during that time period.“This is one of the most egregious cases I’ve ever seen in terms of numbers and quantifies supplied,” assistant U.S. Attorney James Keller said, adding that Rand had violated the “bedrock” of the Hippocratic Oath, “First, do no harm.”Rand was arrested in April 2016 following a raid at a pill mill the FBI said had been operating out of a Reno car dealership and Randy’s family practice office. The government dropped several other charges against Rand as part of the plea agreement, including a count involving the death of a woman.
Yenick died in October 2015, only a week after his mother had begged Rand to cut off the drugs she said her son had become addicted to.“He was a monster with a stethoscope,” his father, Edward Yenick Jr., told the judge on Monday.Cyndi Yenick, the mother, told Rand through tears, “You killed my son.”“You won’t be around to ignore the plea of another mother. You won’t be feeding this opioid epidemic in our community,” she said.
A sister, Kristine Yenick, added, “You disregarded the sanctity of my brother’s life with a prescription pad, a white coat and a pen.”Rand decided against testifying on the witness stand where he would be subject to cross-examination. But made a statement from a podium in the courtroom directed at Yenick’s family, which has filed a wrongful death suit against him in Washoe County District Court.
“I want to say I am deeply sorry for the terrible grief, pain and suffering I have caused by my actions,” Rand said. “I cannot fathom your pain.”Rand said he wouldn’t make any excuses but the victims deserved “some sort of brief explanation.” He said he took a vow to never let his patients suffer after watching the pain his mother was in while dying from cancer when he was in medical school.
“I went too far. I was overzealous. I was misguided,” he said. “I was trying to ameliorate one type of pain and caused another that I know will never go away.”
About a dozen colleagues and former patients wrote letters on Rand’s behalf, including some who testified during Monday’s hearing he saved their life with early detection of cancer and other potentially fatal diseases.
“I never witnessed anything but integrity and practicing good medicine,” added Dr. Linda Molloy, the medical director at Northern Nevada Regional Medical Center in Sparks who supervised him when he started there in 2008.
Rand’s lead defense attorney told reporters afterward he thought Rand was denied justice.
“I didn’t want him to plead guilty,” John Ohlson said. “I don’t think he’s guilty. I wish we would have had a trial.”Yenick’s family, which called Michael Yenick “Bub,” said in a statement the sentence “brings us no joy.”
“It will not bring Bub back or take away the overwhelming grief of losing a child,” the parents said.