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Doctor cleared of charges that led to claims of White House conspiracy

October 24, 1997

MOUNT VERNON, Ga. (AP) _ A popular country doctor who claimed his indictment on charges of illegally dispensing prescription drugs resulted from a White House conspiracy has been cleared of all charges.

A jury acquitted Dr. Luther C. McRae on Wednesday.

McRae had claimed that the sting operation that led to his indictment was prompted by the White House after he provided information to undermine the nomination of Dr. Henry Foster for U.S. surgeon general in 1995.

McRae contended then that Foster lied about his knowledge of the infamous Tuskegee syphilis study. Foster had said he knew nothing of the experiment, which left poor blacks untreated, until it was made public in 1972. But McRae insisted he and Foster, as members of an Alabama medical society, both learned of the study in 1969.

Foster ultimately failed to win the job mostly because of questions raised over the number of abortions he’d performed, but his opponents also used the Tuskegee dispute to undermine his credibility.

During McRae’s 2 1/2-day trial, defense lawyer W.W. Larsen didn’t mention any White House conspiracy, but contended that McRae was merely doing what any doctor would in writing prescriptions.

McRae, 66, was tried on 15 counts of illegally dispensing prescription drugs. During a month-long Georgia Bureau of Investigation probe, agents recorded two encounters he had with a patient cooperating with the authorities.

``She went to the house and said, `I want to get something to get high,‴ District Attorney Tim Vaughn said. ``He gave her a prescription and she gave him $40, and (the prescription) was for no medical reason. That’s not practicing medicine. That’s selling drugs.″

``He didn’t sell them anything,″ Larsen said. ``He didn’t charge them but a nominal amount. The prescriptions were for legitimate purposes. He didn’t dispense anything. He wrote prescriptions that were never filled.″

Larsen said the tapes gave a misleading impression because the medical problems had been determined in earlier visits. And one of the state’s witnesses said he would dispense the same medication under the same circumstances, Larsen said.

Vaughn said the prosecution was hampered by the fact that McRae has provided treatment for four generations in Montgomery County.

``When a person is that well-known, it gives the state an extra burden to overcome with the jury,″ he said.

The acquittal does not end McRae’s problems. His license to dispense medicine has been suspended. He also is under investigation by the GBI Health Care Fraud Unit and by a state medical board.

Asked about McRae’s conspiracy theory, Vaughn said, ``To say the doctor’s allegations are absolutely groundless would be an understatement.″

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