A doctor facing multiple charges stemming from the 2011 raid of a Spring Hill pain clinic will avoid prison but lose his right to practice and pay a hefty fine.
As part of deal with prosecutors, Dr. Harold Sleight pleaded guilty Tuesday to four counts of possessing a medical drug without a prescription, two counts of possessing a controlled substance and one count of trafficking in a controlled substance.
Sleight, 72, must serve 15 years of drug offender probation and pay a $100,000 fine. He also must give up his license and will not be able to reapply for the duration of his probation.
Given his age, that's effectively a lifetime ban on practicing medicine, but the penalty is better than the potential alternative. If convicted at trial, Sleight faced up to the 65 years in prison just on the felony charges.
"So if you were to violate probation, your minimum (term) is going to be 125 months in the Department of Corrections, do you understand that?" Circuit Judge Anthony Tatti asked.
"Yes, sir," Sleight replied.
Sleight was the medical director for Hope Pain Management Group, 1250 Mariner Blvd., when he was arrested in November of 2011. During an 18-month investigation, the Sheriff's Office vice and narcotics unit discovered that one of the business' owners, Lynn Hutchinson, practiced medicine without a license. Undercover detectives and informers learned that Hutchinson sent patients for MRIs, gave exams and issued prescriptions for pain medicine.
Sleight, who now lives in Charlotte County, knew of the activity and allowed it to occur, investigators said. A report says that even when he didn't evaluate patients, Sleight signed blank prescription forms for Hutchinson to give out.
A day after his arrest, Hernando sheriff's deputies searched Sleight's 1999 Monaco executive motor home and found more than 80 pills used to treat pain, anxiety and insomnia. His vehicle was seized at Topics RV Resort in Spring Hill. The doctor did not have a prescription for any of the tablets, authorities say.
Sleight was also ordered to pay $29,000 for the cost of the investigation but can meet the requirement if he pays $15,000 within 48 hours of Tuesday's hearing. The Sheriff's Office is working in separate civil proceedings to seize some of Sleight's assets including the home and two Cadillacs.
Hutchinson, 47, pleaded no contest last month to a dozen charges, including multiple counts of practicing without a license. Her sentencing hearing is set for May 28.