DRUG-USING LAWYER SPARED PRISON MAN CONVICTED IN OPERATION DOUGHBOY GETS HOME DETENTION AFTER 3RD RELAPSE — (The Spokesman-Review)

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The Spokesman-Review, (WA)

December 1, 1995

Author: Bill Morlin Staff writer

Use of the anti-depression drug Prozac likely caused a Spokane attorney to illegally use cocaine for the third time since his drug conviction, a federal judge was told.  Prozac was prescribed for Ron Kappelman late last year, a short time after he pleaded guilty to three felony counts of delivering cocaine.

The prescription drug  “contributes to relapses in substance abusers, and more likely than not contributed” to Kappelman’s recent relapse, Dr. Fred Montgomery says in court papers.  Montgomery is a psychiatrist at Sundown M. Ranch, an in-patient drug-treatment facility in Selah, Wash., where Kappelman sought help after he was caught using cocaine in September.

Judge Fred Van Sickle on Thursday sentenced Kappelman to 90 days of home detention for a probation violation, allowing him to continue operating his espresso stand.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Rice urged the judge to send Kappelman to prison for nine months for his third admitted use of cocaine since his conviction.

But attorney Carl Maxey, representing Kappelman, said his client suffers from drug addiction, with its inevitable relapses.  “It’s a problem he has and he’s doing everything he can to fight it.”  Sending Kappelman to prison would jeopardize his attempt to regain his license to practice law, Maxey said.

“If you warehouse him, I think it will be a total destruction of a man and a (rehabilitation) program for him,” Maxey said.

“This doesn’t have anything to do with a deterrent to others,” the defense attorney argued.    The 38-year-old attorney and his wife were among three dozen cocaine users and dealers arrested in August 1994 and later convicted as part of Operation Doughboy. Kappelman was sentenced to six months in jail for his conviction.   As a result, he temporarily lost his license to practice law. He opened Fly-by Espresso in west Spokane to support his family.   A routine urine drug test given to Kappelman in September revealed he had used cocaine for the third time, Rice told the court.

After Kappelman failed the September test, he told a probation officer that he smoked cocaine given to him by a friend he met through court-ordered drug counseling.  Court papers don’t make it clear whether the cocaine was in powder or rock form. Possession of crack carries stiff prison terms.   Kappelman is a former attorney for the Spokane Police Guild, the Rape Crisis Center and the DARE anti-drug program.

“The public’s perception of the integrity of the judicial system requires that he be sentenced harshly and fairly, as other defendants would be sentenced,” Rice said.  Last January, after two earlier drug tests showed Kappelman was still using cocaine, Rice asked Van Sickle to send the attorney to prison for six months.

The judge didn’t follow that recommendation, but did add one month to Kappelman’s work-release sentence.  This time, the judge said he believed Kappelman’s story that he didn’t seek cocaine to use it, but merely lacked the willpower to resist when it was provided by a friend.  “The continuation of treatment and you’re staying clean – that’s the best interest to society,” Van Sickle told Kappelman.

Correction:  (From For the Record, Tuesday, December 5, 1995):

A story in Friday’s Spokesman-Review said convicted drug dealer Ron Kappelman, an attorney, was legal counsel for the city’s DARE program. At Kappelman’s drug sentencing last year, the former president of the Spokane Police Guild, Gary Johnson, testified the lawyer represented the Guild and groups such as DARE in fund-raising and other capacities. However, city DARE managers say Kappelman never worked with their organization.

Copyright (c) 1995 The Spokesman-Review
Record Number:  9512010046