Former Excela medical chief gets probation, compassion from judge
The former chief medical director at Excela Health Westmoreland Hospital was sentenced Thursday to serve five years on probation for illegally writing prescriptions for pain medication to fuel his own addiction problem.
Dr. Ralph Capone, 65, of Hempfield, pleaded guilty last month to four consolidated offenses after he was charged with writing 300 prescriptions for hydrocodone and other painkillers and using the names of family members -- including his children, wife and mother -- to receive the medication for his personal use from 2014 through October 2017. The fraudulent prescriptions were supplied by pharmacies in Greensburg, Hempfield and Jeannette, authorities said.
Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court Judge Meagan Bilik-DeFazio said she chose to impose a mitigated sentence that included no jail time because of Capone’s effort to treat his addiction as well as his voluntary efforts to rehabilitate himself after the charges were filed.
She urged Capone speak publicly about his addiction issues.
“By all accounts, you are a man of compassion,” the judge said after reviewing a packet of letters from family, friends and supporters, who wrote to convince the judge that Capone should not be sent to jail. “You, sir, are a very blessed man. Falling into addiction does not make you a bad person.”
Capone did not speak during Thursday’s sentencing hearing.
Defense attorney Jeff Monzo said Capone voluntarily gave up his license to practice medicine and successfully completed a drug treatment program. He said Capone’s crimes were not indicative of the man and doctor he was before his arrest.
“He’s a devout husband and father. He wasn’t just a doctor, he was the kind of doctor who patients would call in the middle of the night. A doctor other doctors would call when they needed help with a diagnosis,” Monzo said.
Deputy Attorney General Tomm Mutschler told the judge that standard sentencing guidelines called for Capone to serve between nine and 16 months in jail but made no penalty recommendations to the judge.
Capone served as chief medical officer at Excela Health from 2007 to 2009. Before that, he was medical director of the now-defunct Jeannette District Memorial Hospital from 1996 to 2003. He had a private medical practice based in North Huntingdon prior to his arrest.