CLEARFIELD- The sentencing hearing for a physician’s assistant accused of dispensing illegal prescriptions was continued Monday after a clash between her attorney and the district attorney.
Holly Jean Hipps, 42, of Olanta was charged with acquiring or obtaining a controlled substance by fraud, conspiracy and administration of a controlled substance by a practitioner, all felony charges and additional drug charges, after an investigation into her activity in 2017.
Hipps is accused of writing prescriptions for Dennis Lee Lingle, 61, of Clearfield and others related to him as well as a former patient at the Discovery House in Clearfield where the staff does not prescribe narcotics and for a co-worker, according to the affidavit of probable cause.
Some of these were reportedly written after her PA medical license and DEA registration expired on Oct. 31, 2016.
Hipps was formerly employed at the Caring Healthcare Network in Philipsburg in addition to the Discovery House, according to the complaint.
She had signed an open plea, leaving her sentence to be decided by the judge.
Her attorney, David Hopkins, argued on Monday during sentencing court for his client to receive a probation only sentence because she found “herself in a difficult situation” after she wrote one prescription and was threatened to write more or go to jail.
It was her word against his, Hopkins stated. This was not a situation for her “to profit.”
He also claimed that the investigator, Agent Duane Musser of the Attorney General’s office, told him at the preliminary hearing that he didn’t believe Hipps should go to jail.
Judge Fredric J. Ammerman asked if anyone else heard this and First Assistant Ryan Dobo, who was at the hearing, said Musser didn’t mention this to him.
Hopkins referenced the sentence of a local doctor charged with similar crimes who is serving four to eight years in prison, saying she should not be held to the same standard because “one person got his hooks into her and wouldn’t let go.”
Ammerman suggested that she should have gone to the authorities who would have “wired her up” to prove her case.
District Attorney William A. Shaw Jr. countered Hopkins’s argument by stating that she was “giving out thousands of opioid pills” while the county was in an opioid crisis.
Shaw went on to say she was doing this for her own benefit and because she was authorized to write scripts, she should be held to the same standard as the doctor.
He also mentioned that AG Josh Shapiro is “doing everything to battle the opioid crisis” and he would agree.
Hopkins asked for a continuance and the judge agreed with this to allow Musser to attend the sentencing hearing and voice his opinion.
According to the criminal complaint, Hipps wrote prescriptions for Dennis Lee Lingle, 61, of Clearfield, a friend of Lingle’s, Lingle’s wife and Lingle’s wife’s cousin who stated Lingle told him he paid Hipps $1,500 for each prescription.
Lingle is facing charges of conspiracy/acquiring or obtaining possession of a controlled substance by misrepresentation, acquiring or obtaining possession of a controlled substance by misrepresentation and conspiracy/administer of controlled substance by practitioner. His case is still pending.