YOU CAN say plenty of bad things about disgraced West Philly physician Kermit Gosnell, but at least the man has never been found guilty of cats.
That bizarre turn of phrase was among numerous head-scratching moments that unfolded yesterday when Gosnell was handed a 30-year prison sentence in federal court on charges that he ran a "pill mill" out of his former practice, the Women's Medical Society.
Gosnell, 72, is already serving three consecutive life sentences for murdering three babies in the clinic, where he regularly performed late-term abortions.
He agreed over the summer to plead guilty to doling out scores of prescriptions for highly addictive painkillers to anyone who was willing to pay.
But yesterday's sentencing hearing almost stopped before it started when U.S. District Judge Cynthia M. Rufe noted that Gosnell had sent her an eight-page, single-spaced response to the pre-sentencing investigation.
Gosnell's attorney, Jack McMahon, was blindsided by the letter, and the two had to pause frequently to figure out exactly what Gosnell was trying to accomplish.
Ultimately, McMahon said Gosnell objected to a reference that prosecutors made to a prior grand-jury report that described his clinic as a bloodstained house of horrors that reeked of urine from flea-infested cats.
"He wasn't found guilty of cats," McMahon said.
Gosnell was given a chance to address the court, and delivered long, disjointed remarks. He said he wanted to use his extensive medical expertise to help other inmates, and had sent letters to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and prison officials about the idea.
He said he accepted "full responsibility" for the illegal activities that flourished in his clinic, but also contended that his fast and loose prescription-writing practices were part of a plan to help his drug-addicted patients, who were part of a community he cared for deeply.
Rufe chided him for not following up with his patients until they returned to fork over cash for more Percocet, OxyContin and Xanax.
"I have tunnel vision sometimes," Gosnell said.
"He didn't care about that community. He preyed on that community," said prosecutor Jessica Natali, who noted that Gosnell was heard on a recorded phone conversation complaining about writing 200 prescriptions in one night.
Rufe ordered Gosnell to serve his 30-year sentence at the same time as his life sentences. She also ordered him to pay a $50,000 fine and forfeit $200,000.
"You're 72 years old," Rufe said. "You're not going to see the light of day."