CHEYENNE — A Casper doctor who ran a drug conspiracy that killed a woman will serve the minimum allowable sentence for his conviction on 21 felonies.
Judge Alan Johnson on Monday afternoon cited concerns about sentencing requirements in ordering Shakeel Kahn, 53, to serve 25 years imprisonment. The doctor requested he be imprisoned at one of the same three institutions his brother Nabeel requested hours earlier.
Nabeel Kahn was sentenced to just over 15 years in federal prison for his role in the pill mill.
The brothers were tried in Casper in May. Shakeel Kahn was convicted on all 21 felonies he faced related to the prescriptions for powerful opioids and other pills that he would write for patients in exchange for hundreds of dollars in fees. Nabeel Kahn was convicted on a firearms charge and on being part of a conspiracy to unlawfully distribute and dispense controlled substances. The brothers' business extended across Wyoming, and Shakeel Kahn had patients in multiple states across the country.
Johnson said he was persuaded by defense attorney Beau Brindley's argument that sentence enhancements inordinately pile up when drug case defendants are doctors.
Brindley told the Casper Star-Tribune after the sentencing he was happy with Johnson's decision.
The prosecution did not call any victims to speak, but Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Sprecher read statements from the mother-in-law and sister of Jessica Burch, the Arizona woman whose death Shakeel Kahn was found responsible for. The victims decided Monday morning they did not want to speak at the sentencing, something they had tenuously planned to do.
Kahn faced a minimum 20-year sentence on two convictions: conspiracy to unlawfully distribute and dispense controlled substances resulting in death and engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise. He will serve concurrent sentences on 18 lesser counts. Johnson also sentenced Kahn to a five-year consecutive sentence on a gun charge.
Nabeel Kahn was sentenced to 121 months for the conspiracy conviction, plus another five years for a gun charge. Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Hambrick had told Johnson that the quantities of the pills that Shakeel Kahn was distributing via prescriptions — often hundreds of powerful oxycodones per script — should've brought Nabeel Kahn the 20-year maximum sentence.
Kahn's defense attorney had asked for roughly 7 1/2 years in total imprisonment, citing his medical conditions. At one point during the Kahn brothers' trial, proceedings were halted because Nabeel Kahn was too ill to continue.
In ordering the sentence, Johnson said he considered Nabeel Kahn's medical issues and said the man no longer poses an ongoing threat to society, as his physician brother — the nexus of the drug scheme — is no longer a doctor.
In court, attorneys for the brothers had sought to present Nabeel Kahn as a gentle giant who Shakeel Kahn would occasionally use as a harmless bogeyman on patients. Shakeel Kahn, who testified in his own defense, said he was trying to look after his brother by bringing him into his pain management clinic. He acknowledged that Nabeel Kahn often carried a weapon while working at the clinic.
Though Nabeel Kahn was not a doctor and had no real medical training, he was tasked with taking vital signs and doing other tasks around his brother's Casper clinic. He was also tasked with sometimes distributing the prescriptions written by Shakeel Kahn to his patients, whom prosecutors alleged were often little more than paying customers looking for painkillers.
Nabeel Kahn was also implicated in siphoning legitimate prescriptions for himself. On the stand, Shakeel Kahn testified that his brother was in pain and needed opiates, which were intended to be mailed to a patient in Arizona.
The Wyoming Drug Enforcement Agency released a statement in response to the sentencing.
"They preyed on the weak and the sick in our communities and they profited from their criminal activity," agent David Tyree said of the Kahns in the statement. "... Drug dealers selling poison to addicts, making a money from the pain and misery of addiction is something that as law enforcement and as a community, we can no longer tolerate."