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March court date set for former pharmacist

By MELINDA WILLIAMS

melinda@southwesttimes.com

WYTHE COUNTY – A March court date was set Wednesday for a former Dublin pharmacist facing drug charges in Wythe County.

Russell Stuart Gates, 52, is to be tried in Wythe County Circuit Court March 17 at 9:30 a.m., according to online court records. He was the head pharmacist at Dublin Pharmacy when he was arrested Dec. 9, 2012 following a wreck on Interstate 77 in Wythe County.

Wythe Sheriff Doug King said at that time that drugs and weapons were found inside a vehicle Gates was driving at the time of the wreck and that lead authorities to investigate further, including executing a search warrant on Gates’ Wythe County home.

According to court records, Gates is charged with a first offense of driving under the influence of drugs, carrying a concealed weapon, eight counts of distribution of a Schedule IV drug, two counts of possession of a Schedule I/II drug, two counts of possession of a gun while in possession of a Schedule I/II drug and 10 counts of possession with intent to distribute a Schedule I/II drug.

According to a Consent Order filed with the Virginia Department of Health Professions, Gates’ pharmacist license expired at the end of 2012. In February, the Virginia Board of Pharmacy “summarily suspended” Gates’ right to renew his license, ruling that his continued practice as a pharmacist “constituted a substantial danger to the public health and safety.”

In March, the board ordered Gates’ right to renew his license should be “continued on indefinite suspension.” However, the suspension was then “stayed” under several conditions, including that Gates enter into the Virginia Health Practitioners’ Monitoring Program (HPMP). HPMP provides services to health practitioners who impaired by physical and mental disabilities or chemical dependency.

VDHP records show Gates’ license to be current and active until Dec. 31.

In summarizing the incident that led to Gate’s arrest in Wythe County, the Consent Order states that Gates was driving “erratically” in the emergency lane and both northbound lanes of Interstate 77 Dec. 9, 2012.

The order indicates Wythe deputies stopped the car, but Sheriff King said at the time of the incident that Gates crashed the 2005 Pontiac around 6 a.m. King noted that a witness reported that Gates was driving “erratically” before crashing the car.

The order alleges that a used Fentanyl patch and a rolled-up dollar bill covered with a white powder on the inside were found inside Gates’ car. A deputy also “noticed two pills on the ground where Mr. Gates was standing outside of the car and when asked about the pills, Mr. Gates stated that there were more pills in his shoe,” the order states.

The Consent Order goes on to say, “He admitted to having taken Lortab and Oxycodone about two hours prior to being stopped, and he failed three of the four sobriety tests administered … Mr. Gates further admitted to having a drug problem.”

According to the order, a search of Gates’ residence a day later discovered bottles of pills: some with no labels, some with manufacturer labels and some having labels for another person. The search also allegedly turned up “computer printouts of prescription information, blank prescription labels and a number of firearms.”

Other VDHP files show that the Virginia Board of Pharmacy ordered Gates in August 1992 to undergo treatment for chemical dependency and placed him on probation for three years. He was working at a pharmacy in Virginia Beach at that time.

Four years later, the board reprimanded Gates for mislabeling and dispensing to a customer a lower dosage of the blood-thinner Coumadin than was prescribed.

Besides Fentanyl, other drugs named in the charges filed against Gates include Percocet, Methylin, morphine, codeine, Adderall, Concerta and methadone.

According to online court records, Gates was released on bond in January 2013.