Virginia doctor faces up to life in prison in opioid case

ABINGDON, Va. (AP) — A Virginia doctor who was convicted of more than 800 counts of illegally prescribing opioids faces a sentence of 20 years to life in prison.

Dr. Joel Smithers, of Greensboro, North Carolina, is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Abingdon.

Smithers was convicted in May of illegally distributing opioids, including oxycodone and oxymorphone that caused the death of a West Virginia woman.

Authorities say Smithers prescribed more than 500,000 doses of opioids to patients from five states during the two years he ran a medical office in Martinsville, Virginia.

During his trial, Smithers testified that he was a caring doctor who was deceived by some of his patients.

Smithers faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison, but could get up to life.

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