CHEYENNE — A Casper doctor who ran a drug conspiracy that killed a woman will serve the minimum allowable sentence for his conviction on 21 felonies.
Judge Alan Johnson on Monday afternoon cited concerns about sentencing requirements in ordering Shakeel Kahn, 53, to serve 25 years’ imprisonment.
Kahn’s brother, Nabeel, was sentenced to just over 15 years in federal prison for his role in the pill mill.
After the afternoon hearing, the doctor’s lawyer, Beau Brindley, of Chicago, said he was happy with the judge’s decision. The attorney, who predicated much of his sentencing argument on a comparison between the doctor and cartel drug dealers, said the judge’s ruling indicated Johnson agreed with the distinction Brindley made.
“Under the circumstances [this was] the best possible outcome,” Brindley said.
U.S. Attorney Mark Klaassen, who was at the sentencing and whose office prosecuted the case, said he respects the judge’s decision, though the sentence fell short of the life imprisonment prosecutor Stephanie Sprecher asked for. Klaassen noted the sentence remains substantial.
A jury convicted the Kahn brothers in May, following a nearly monthlong trial in Casper’s federal courthouse. In returning its verdict the jury found Shakeel Kahn guilty of all 21 felonies he faced in relation to the prescriptions for powerful opioids and other pills that he wrote for in exchange for hundreds of dollars in cash fees. Jurors also found the doctor responsible for the overdose death of an Arizona woman.
The jury convicted Nabeel Kahn on a firearms charge and for conspiracy to unlawfully distribute and dispense controlled substances. Jurors, however, did not find him responsible in the woman’s death. The judge ultimately departed from the guidelines and — citing Nabeel Kahn’s ongoing medical issues — sentenced him to 15 years and one month imprisonment.
The prosecution did not call any victims to speak, but Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Sprecher read statements from relatives of Jessica Burch, the Arizona woman whose death Shakeel Kahn was found responsible for.
Lawyers then turned to sentencing recommendations for the 21 convictions.
Sprecher said Kahn thinks himself above the law and said he’s narcissistic and entitled, citing his violations of no-contact orders in the case. The prosecutor asked Johnson to order Kahn to serve a life sentence and then another five years for a gun conviction.
Brindley then took to the podium, saying he still did not understand how jurors found a conspiracy, referencing a closing argument at trial. He went on to say that enhancements tend to pile up in drug diversion cases against doctors. Such cases, Brindley said, are typically prosecuted only after a person dies by overdose. And doctors, he said, will inherently distribute a large amount of drugs, due to their prescribing powers.
The defense attorney then referenced a case he’d recently argued that’s linked to cartel activity. His client in that case, he said, received 28 years.
The judge noted that the law would convert the 2 million pills Kahn prescribed to 200,000 kilograms of generic drug weight.
“If you accept that,” the judge said, looking at Brindley, “that puts him right up there with [Joaquin “El Chapo”] Guzman.”
Following a 15-minute description of the crimes for which Kahn was convicted, and the doctor declining to speak, the judge left for 10 minutes.
On the judge’s return, Kahn stepped to a podium for the ruling.
“The penalty in this matter is a substantial one,” Johnson said, looking directly at Brindley. “But I agree with you. I believe you have the stronger argument.”
He ordered Kahn serve the 20-year minimums on the two most serious charges, with a number of shorter sentences running at the same time. He also sentenced Kahn to a five-year consecutive sentence on the gun charge.
“I don’t think there’ll be any recidivism,” Johnson said. “The defendant will never have a [Drug Enforcement Agency] license again.”
The judge order Kahn to pay $5,000 in restitution for Burch’s funeral. After Kahn’s lawyers requested he be sentenced to one of three prisons in California, Florida or Oregon, the judge rose from the bench and concluded the hearing.
Brindley said in a courthouse hallway that he plans to appeal.