DOCTOR BLAMES THIEF’S ACTIONS ON PROZAC USE — (St. Paul Pioneer Press)

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St. Paul Pioneer Press (MN)

July 13, 1995

Author: BYLINE: JIM BROEDE, Staff Writer

Prozac made her do it.   At least, the widely used anti-depressant drug is being blamed by a doctor for the actions of a former Washington County jail employee who pleaded guilty this week to felony theft of public funds.

Claudia Bollinger, 37, was caught by a hidden video camera taking money from a cash box containing fees paid by prisoners in the home-detention program she managed.  An audit showed $2,800 was missing, but Bollinger confessed to taking only $300.

Dr. Peter Breggin of Bethesda, Md., said in a report filed with Washington County District Court that he’s convinced Prozac impaired Bollinger’s judgment and impulse control.  “It caused her to lack substantial capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of her conduct,” he said.

Prosecutor Nicole Nee didn’t buy that argument.   “Claudia Bollinger knew the nature of her act and that it was was wrong, despite what Dr. Breggin might say,” she said.  Nee said there is probable cause to believe Bollinger stole $2,800 over a five-month period.    “But whether we could have proved it beyond a reasonable doubt was unclear,” she said. “The janitorial staff and others also had access to the cash box.”

Under a plea bargain, one of the two original felony charges was dismissed when Bollinger pleaded guilty to a single felony count.  Bollinger won’t have to serve any jail time. But she will be on probation for three years and must perform 100 hours of community work.  Bollinger resigned from her job with the county this spring. She had been on suspension with pay since September.

Meanwhile, Breggin said he has received many reports of impulsive, reckless and anti-social behavior ascribed to Prozac.   Bollinger had an exemplary work record with no past history of rule violations or difficulties on the job, he said.   “The theft appears to have been unmotivated,” he added,  “in the sense that she did not need the money and had no plans for using it. Like many people who commit wrongful acts on Prozac, she cannot explain why she did it.” 

Copyright (c) 1995 St. Paul Pioneer Press
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