The former Colorado doctor convicted of illegally prescribing generic Prozac to a Stanford University freshman who later committed suicide can serve his nine-month sentence at home with an electronic monitoring bracelet, a judge ordered yesterday.
The San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office strenuously objected, wanting instead for Christian Hageseth, 68, to be remanded into the local Maguire Correctional Facility.
When originally sentenced, Judge James Ellis agreed he could serve the time in Colorado as long as authorities there agreed. After Colorado officials balked at accepting an out-of-state convict into its crowded jail, Hageseth’s punishment was thrown into the air.
On Wednesday, Hageseth was told not only could he return to his home state but also his actual home with an electronic ankle monitor — the option the former psychiatrist told the Daily Journal he was hoping for after he pleaded no contest to a felony count of practicing medicine in California without a valid license.
Hageseth could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Hageseth’s case drew widespread attention because it involved the rather new arena of online services and so-called "telemedicine.” His defense consistently maintained county prosecutors could not try him for practicing in the state because he never stepped foot in California. Prosecutor Jenny Ow, however, and a number of court rulings held otherwise.
In June 2005, John McKay, 19, purchased 90 capsules of generic Prozac by credit card at the online pharmacy site USAnewRX.com. The request was signed off on by Hageseth in Fort Collins, Colo. and shipped from the Mississippi-based Gruich Pharmacy Shoppe. McKay submitted a two-page medical questionnaire before Hageseth’s prescription in which he claimed to have previously taken the drug.
In August, McKay killed himself at his mother’s Menlo Park home and Hageseth surrendered his Colorado medical license. The following May, California authorities charged Hageseth, setting off a legal battle.
A state Appeals Court ultimately ruled in 2007 that Hageseth could be prosecuted in this state but he did not return to California until that October after Sidney, Neb. police stopped him for allegedly speeding and learned of an outstanding $500,000 arrest warrant issued by San Mateo County.
A federal civil suit filed by McKay’s parents later held that the drug did not cause his death.
Following his nine-month term, Hageseth must also spend three years on probation.
Michelle Durand can be reached by e-mail: email@example.com or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 102.