TEXARKANA, Ark. — A federal judge agreed Tuesday afternoon to release a Texarkana, Ark., doctor accused of running a pill mill that included prescribing millions of opioid pills and gallons of cough medicine.
Lonnie Joseph Parker, 54, first appeared in court Tuesday morning for arraignment before U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Bryant on a nine-count indictment accusing him of over-prescribing drugs of abuse including opioids, benzodiazepines and promethazine-containing cough syrup. With the help of Federal Public Defender Alex Wynn, Lonnie Parker entered pleas of not guilty to all counts and asked for a hearing to determine if he can be free while his case proceeds.
At a detention hearing Tuesday afternoon, Bryant agreed to release Lonnie Parker on a $5,000 unsecured appearance bond over the government's objection. Assistant U.S. Attorney Graham Jones, who was standing in for Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Anne Gardner, said the charges facing Lonnie Parker carry a presumption of detention under federal law. Wynn argued that Parker, who has a prior conviction for possession of child pornography, has never missed a court date and complied when previously supervised by federal officials.
Wynn called Chi Kim Parker, Lonnie Parker's wife, to testify. Chi Kim Parker said Lonnie Parker is a father figure to her three children, ages 12, 16 and 17, from a prior relationship. Chi Kim Parker testified that she and Lonnie Parker have plans to travel to Germany next week so that Lonnie Parker can give a keynote speech at an Asgardia convention.
According to Wikipedia, Asgardia is "a micronation formed by a group of people who have launched a satellite into Earth orbit. The Asgardians have adopted a constitution and they intend to access outer space free of the control of existing nations and establish a permanent settlement on the moon by 2043."
According to Asgardia's website, "Dr. Joseph Parker, Chief Science Officer of Advanced Research Concepts Ltd.," is expected to deliver a keynote speech Oct. 14 on "Protection necessary to gestate and raise children in orbital or lunar colonies." Wynn told the court that Lonnie Parker recently acquired a degree in aerospace and that he will forfeit reimbursement for about $5,500 in flight and hotel expenses if he doesn't attend the Asgardia convention.
Jones argued that, if the court agrees to pretrial release, Lonnie Parker should be required to surrender his passport to the court as federal defendants are routinely required. Bryant agreed, ordering Lonnie Parker to surrender his passport as a condition of release. Bryant restricted Lonnie Parker's travel to the Western District of Arkansas and Bowie County, Texas, as well. Lonnie Parker cannot practice medicine or write prescriptions while his case is pending either, Bryant ordered.
Lonnie Parker asked the court if installing computer systems for other medical providers would satisfy the court's requirement that he gain employment without violating the order to abstain from practicing medicine. Jones said the government has no objection provided Lonnie Parker does not practice medicine or write prescriptions.
When speaking briefly with Chi Kim Parker during the hearing about bringing Lonnie Parker's passport for surrender to court to effect his release, Chi Kim Parker became somewhat animated. When Bryant asked about the exchange, Wynn told the court she had just realized that the court's ruling meant her husband could not travel to Germany. Lonnie Parker weighed in on the ruling.
"That will destroy any opportunity I had for any other type of career," Lonnie Parker said.
Bryant responded, "I always ban international travel."
Chi Kim Parker was so upset by Bryant's ruling concerning the Asgardia convention that she attempted to speak to the judge in a hallway of Texarkana's downtown federal building shortly after the hearing adjourned. Bryant told Chi Kim Parker to speak to her husband's lawyer and advised he could not discuss the case with her.
While discussing Lonnie Parker's medical license during the hearing, Wynn mentioned that it had been suspended by the Arkansas State Medical Board in June. According to the agency's website, the board ordered the immediate suspension of Parker's license June 6. The license was reinstated Aug. 1 with the condition that Lonnie Parker refrain from prescribing any controlled substances except for Suboxone, a drug used to treat opioid addiction. At the hearing Wednesday afternoon, Wynn said Lonnie Parker's license had been fully reinstated last week.
Parker was charged in November 1998 with possession of child pornography in the Little Rock Division of the Eastern District of Arkansas, court records show. He was found guilty by a jury in May 2000 of two counts. In September 2000 he was sentenced to 57 months in federal prison. According to the Arkansas State Medical Board's website, Parker's medical license was reinstated in 2005.
A press release issued Tuesday by the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Western District of Arkansas notes that an investigation by the D.E.A. into Lonnie Parker began in 2018 following complaints from law enforcement which included the possible overdose death of a patient.
"In the two-year period analyzed, Dr. Parker prescribed approximately 1.2 million dosage units of opiates, including oxycodone and hydrocodone, to approximately 1,508 patients (approximately 847 dosage units per patient). Dr. Parker also prescribed approximately 16 gallons of Promethazine with Codeine cough syrup to approximately 29 patients during the same time period," according to the press statement.
Parker's case is scheduled for jury selection Nov. 19 before U.S. District Judge Susan Hickey in the Texarkana Division of the Western District of Arkansas though the setting could change at the request of the government or defense.