A lab chief’s sentencing for meningitis deaths is postponed, extending grief of victims’ families

HOWELL, MI — A Michigan judge on Thursday suddenly postponed the sentencing of a man at the center of a fatal meningitis outbreak that hit multiple states, dismaying people who were about to speak out about their grief 12 years after the tragedy.

The judge who accepted a no-contest plea from Barry Cadden retired in March. But the defense attorney and prosecutor said they still expected Michael Hatty to return to serve a minimum 10-year prison sentence for involuntary manslaughter.

Instead, Judge Matthew McGivney inherited the case. He postponed sentencing until May 10 to clear up the confusion, upsetting many people who were prepared to make statements.

A woman cried outside a Livingston County courtroom, 60 miles northwest of Detroit.

Peggy Nuerenberg, whose 88-year-old mother, Mary Plettl, died after being given an injection of contaminated steroids for pain, said she was “absolutely blind.”

“The way things developed today was disrespectful to the victims who worked hard to prepare statements on behalf of their loved ones,” Nuerenberg told The Associated Press.

Another thorny issue: McGivney’s wife works for the attorney general’s office, which is prosecuting Cadden.

“I am not inclined to disqualify myself,” the judge said.

Michigan is the only state to prosecute Cadden for deaths linked to mold-tainted steroids made at the New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Massachusetts, and shipped to pain clinics across the country.

More than 700 people in 20 states were struck by meningitis or other debilitating illnesses, and at least 64 died, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Cadden and a key lab employee, Glenn Chin, were charged with first-degree murder for 11 of the 19 deaths in Michigan. Cadden recently chose not to plead to involuntary manslaughter.

Prosecutors have agreed to a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison. But they also agreed to run the sentence concurrently with Cadden’s current 14 1/2-year prison sentence for federal crimes related to the scandal.

That means it’s unlikely he will face additional time in custody because of the Michigan deaths.

“It’s a joke,” said Gene Keyes, whose 79-year-old mother, Sally Roe, died in 2012. “The attorney general said most families agreed to put this case behind them. go to court. He is not going to serve any more time and that is wrong.”

Keyes said Cadden “put greed before people.”

Compounding pharmacies make versions of medications that are often not available from larger drug manufacturers. But Cadden’s lab was a mess, researchers said, leading to the growth of mold in the manufacturing process.

Chin has not reached a similar plea deal, court records show, and his trial on 11 counts of second-degree murder is pending. He is also serving a 10 1/2 year federal sentence.

Ken Borton survived the tainted steroids, but still has chronic problems. Twelve years later, he walks with a cane, stutters in his speech and says he “can’t remember anything.”

“I will never be who I was again,” Borton said outside court.


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