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HELENA - A state district judge today found Billings businessman Tom Kennedy in contempt of court for helping people buy low-cost drugs from Canadian pharmacies and fined him $4,000.

District Judge Kathy Seeley of Helena said Kennedy could avoid arrest by paying the civil fine and halting his business, known as Canadian Connection.

After a two-hour hearing on the case this morning, she said Kennedy "blatantly failed to follow" a 2004 court order that said he was violating state law by helping unregistered pharmacies sell drugs in the state.

Kennedy said after the hearing that he would close his business.

"I'm done; I'm out of the business," he said. "I guess you can't fight city hall."

The state Board of Pharmacy, which has been feuding with Kennedy for nearly six years, had asked that he be found in contempt of court for ignoring the 2004 order, which said he should halt the business.

Kennedy had refused, saying the board had no jurisdiction over him because he wasn't engaged in the practice of pharmacy.

Kennedy's business put people in touch with a pharmacy in Calgary, Alberta, which then sent drugs directly to the customers, at prices much less than in the United States. He took a 16 percent commission and said in court today that he made about $7,000 a year on the commissions.

The court order, however, said Kennedy violated state law because he was helping Canadian pharmacies sell drugs in Montana, and the Canadian pharmacies were not licensed to do business in the state.

Also at today's hearing, Missoula pharmacist Rebecca Deschamps testified that she had visited Kennedy's business in 2005, posing as a potential customer, and that he had dispensed pharmaceutical advice that she considered potentially dangerous.

She said Kennedy told her she could get a better deal on certain drugs by purchasing a double-dose-sized pill and then splitting it in half. Such splitting could result in irregular doses, she said.

Deschamps was executive director of the Board of Pharmacy when she visited Kennedy's business.

Kennedy, who acted as his own attorney, asked Deschamps whether he suggested she take any particular drug.

"No; not as such," Deschamps replied.

She also agreed with his assertion that any decision made on what drugs she should be prescribed or take would be made by a doctor, rather than him.

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