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#1044: Drug charges against doctor are lessened- (fwd)


Published Thursday, November 11, 1999, in the Miami Herald 

 Drug charges against doctor are lessened------ BY ADAM RAMIREZ

 A popular Haitian doctor who was sentenced to 25 years in prison last
year had the charges against him lessened and was released on $5,000
bond Wednesday, court officials said. Dr. Fritz Metellus benefited from
a Supreme Court decision that changed the drug trafficking law that
convicted him. ``He was convicted on four counts of first-degree
felonies -- but now they are fourth-degree felonies,'' prosecutor John
Gallagher said. Wednesday's bond hearing lasted a mere two minutes as
the much lower bond amount was set.
 ``What he did has not changed -- the law has changed,'' Gallagher said.
 Metellus practiced medicine for 15 years and, until a jury convicted
him last month, had a spotless record. Many of his supporters pleaded
for his freedom at an emotional sentencing hearing in July.
 Circuit Judge James Cohn gave Metellus a mandatory 25-year prison
sentence and imposed a $1.5 million fine. He was convicted on four
counts of trafficking narcotics used in the painkillers Percocet, Lorcet
and Valium. A native of Cap Haitien, Haiti, Metellus has served about 17
months in jail, Gallagher said.
 Metellus was arrested in August 1997 after an investigation that led to
an undercover sting by officers who said they paid him $75 to $200 for
narcotics prescriptions that served no medical purpose.
 The officers filled the prescriptions, which prosecutors said made
Metellus a principal in the illegal purchase of drugs.