Fake `doctor’ gets probation
John Nelson, who recently pleaded guilty to practicing medicine without a license, was sentenced Monday to a year of probation plus 10 days in jail.
But because he had already spent time in jail in Florida before being brought to Colorado to stand trial, he may not have to spend any time in the Pitkin County Jail.
The judge gave his attorney, Pamela Mackey of Denver, two weeks to figure out whether or not Nelson, 46, will be required to report to the jail.
After an emotional hearing in which local prosecutor Lawson Wills characterized the case as “a situation of chronic fraud,” Nelson told Judge J.E. DeVilbiss: “I crossed a line that shouldn’t have been crossed. It’ll never happen again … in the State of Colorado or in this district.”
As a condition of his probationary sentence, Nelson is prohibited from setting himself up in medical practice anywhere in the Ninth Judicial District, which includes Pitkin, Garfield and Rio Blanco counties.
Addressing the judge before sentence was passed, Wills maintained that the seriousness of the case was not reflected in Nelson’s plea of guilty to a relatively low-level misdemeanor charge. He was originally charged with two felonies.
“This wasn’t a case in which Mr. Nelson was trying to help others,” Wills argued. “He was defrauding others to finance his lifestyle,” a reference to authorities’ belief that Nelson preyed on local, wealthy clients and charged them for holistic health treatments of questionable value.
But Nelson’s attorney objected strenuously to Wills’ characterizations of her client, and criticized him for seeming to renege on his promise to recommend that the judge sentence Nelson to probation.
“This is just a smear campaign,” she told DeVilbiss, “just grandstanding for the press.”
She accused Wills of dredging up allegations and accusations that should only come up during a trial, when the defense could cross-examine witnesses and challenge documentation.
DeVilbiss, however, had some challenges of his own, questioning Nelson about his claims to hold medical degrees and certificates. He also read from a document that contained some of the claimed credentials and compared those to conflicting statements Nelson made to the judge in previous court hearings.
Nelson responded that DeVilbiss was reading from an “internal document” meant only to be used to establish a clinic in Colorado Springs with other, like-minded practitioners, and not for public scrutiny. But, he conceded, “Some of the things here probably should not have been presented the way they were.”
Before pronouncing sentence, the judge told Nelson, “I think that you are deeply, internally dishonest. I’ve done the best I can to sort this all out.”
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