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House Chairman Questions Imprisonment of Pregnant Air Force Captain

May 24, 1991

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The chairman of a House panel is questioning the Air Force’s decision to jail for six months a pregnant captain found guilty by a military court in Texas of the wrongful use of leftover pain-relief pills from a two-year-old prescription.

″I am terribly concerned by the appearance of irregularity and possible vindictiveness in this case,″ Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., chairman of the House Government Operations Committee, said in a letter to the Defense Department’s inspector general, Susan Crawford.

The letter, dated May 22, was publicly released Friday.

The case involves Air Force Capt. Carla Lancaster, who was a staff nurse at the Wilford Hall medical center at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.

Lancaster was charged with larceny of Demerol on or about Sept. 27, 1990 and wrongful use of mepridine, the main ingredient in Demerol, and oxycodone on or about Sept. 27, 1990, Lt. Col. Johnny Whitaker, a spokesman at the Air Force Base, said.

Lancaster pleaded not guilty at her court martial May 15 through May 18. While she was exonerated on the theft and mepridine charges, she was found guilty of wrongful use of oxycodone, Whitaker said. On May 20, she was dismissed from the Air Force and forced to forfeit all pay and allowances, which could amount to $35,000 to $40,000 annually.

In the letter, Conyers points out that while thefts of Demerol continued at Lackland and have not been explained, ″there is at least the appearance that Captain Lancaster has been nevertheless penalized for that offense.″

She was also taken into custody immediately and sentenced to six months incarceration, which likely will mean a transfer to Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, Whitaker said.

In requesting a delay in the sentence pending an appeal, Lancaster said that she used oxycodone in the early hours of Sept. 27. She had been prescribed Tylox, which contains oxycodone and acetaminophen, in April 1988 when her wisdom teeth were removed.

Suffering from an infected hematoma on her right hip, Lancaster took Tylenol, Motrin and Tylenol No. 3 with codeine on Sept. 26, she said in the deferment request.

When none of the drugs relieved the pain, she took the last two Tylox pills from the 1988 prescription, she said.

Complicating matters is the fact that Lancaster is now four months pregnant. She and her husband, Jack, an Air Force veteran, live in San Antonio.

Lancaster has no prior offenses and continued to work at Wilford Hall while the charges were pending, according to the deferment request.

″Given the most unusual circumstances of this case and the fact that Captain Lancaster is four months pregnant, I am asking you to review what transpired here,″ Conyers said in the letter to Crawford.


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