Written by Joe Scotchie Friday, 15 October 2010 00:00
The case of Sanji Francis, a long-running story that has caused great anguish in the Massapequa community, came to a conclusion last week as Judge Stephen Jaeger handed down a six-month, five year sentence on the Merrick-based physician accused of selling prescription drugs to undercover police.
The sentencing was merely a formality, as on last July 15, Judge Jaeger promised a sentence of no greater than six months in a local prison and five years probation.
And that is what happened at a State Supreme Court building in Mineola on Thursday, Oct. 7.
The July sentencing was a keen disappointment to both prosecutors and local activists, especially those affiliated with Drug Free Massapequa (DFM). Teresa Corrigan, the assistant district attorney who was prosecuting the case for Nassau County, was seeking a two-year prison term at an upstate facility, with five years probation added on.
Janice Talento, president of DFM, admitted that asking for a two-year sentence was probably a mistake. Ms. Talento remains disappointed with the lack of jail time and acknowledged that asking for a longer term would have been a sounder strategy.
There are other aspects of the sentencing that are disturbing to Ms. Talento.
Francis, who no longer practices medicine, can petition to get his license back while he is still on probation. Ms. Talento noted that this is not likely to happen. However, once his five-year probation term ends, Francis will remain eligible to get his license back.
News reports noted that Francis, once his jail term ends, is “likely” to be deported to his native India. The particulars of this scenario are also a disappointment.
“Why we are paying for a six-month prison term is beyond me,” Ms. Talento told The Massapequan Observer, as she preferred that deportation take place right away.
Even though a prison sentence has been handed down, DFM is not going to let the controversy fade away.
“We are still going to be in pursuit of patients of Francis’s to come forward [in an effort] to start a new case against him while he’s still in jail,” Ms. Talento said, a remark that was similar to a release DFM issued after the July hearing. “We need every person to reach out and find families that had children who used Dr. Francis,” the DFM statement read.
In February, DFM won a major victory when the defendant was denied Judicial Diversion. At the February hearing and at those in July, DFM members were out in force at the sentencing. Both the July and October events had an emotional impact, as also in attendance were the parents of Timothy Kroll, the late Copiague youth who first reported the defendant to the police. In her presentation, Ms. Corrigan cited Timothy Kroll in her plea for a stronger sentencing, an address that ultimately did not persuade the judge. The Krolls also expressed their bitter disappointment at the length of the sentencing.
Right from the Francis’s arrest in December 2009, the case has been one of great interest to DFM and the entire Massapequa community. When DFM made its successful opposition to granting Judicial Diversion for the defendant, it garnered a petition that had over 2,000 signatures.
The arrest and the ongoing court proceedings also dramaticized the local drug problem that organizations such as DFM and YES Community Counsel are dedicated to fighting.
According to Nassau County police, Francis while at his office located at 4999 Merrick Rd., did knowingly and unlawfully sell prescriptions of Oxycodone (a schedule II controlled substance) to another on nine different dates, from Aug. 1 to Dec. 8, 2009.
The defendant, detectives added, received anywhere from $480 to $600 for the prescriptions.
At a Dec. 9, 2009 press conference, Police Commissioner Lawrence W. Mulvey said that the defendant had been sought out by local youths battling addictions for both heroin and pain medication.
Mulvey also thanked the Massapequa community for their sense of awareness that helped to lead to the investigation and eventual arrest of Francis.
“He [Francis] damaged our community’s greatest asset, our young people,” Mulvey said. “Now he will pay for that by losing his freedom and perhaps a multimillion dollar home in a gated community.”
But in the end, DMF members would not agree that the final punishment would fit the convicted crime.