A former State College doctor convicted of allowing an uncertified medical assistant perform X-rays on patients avoided prison time during sentencing on Monday.
Geronami Kattupalli, a 42-year-old who operated at Dr. Paul’s Clinic on North Atherton Street in State College, was convicted of one count of radiation protection on March 20.
Anyone convicted under the statute is to be sentenced to pay a fine of not less than $2,500, but not more than $100,000 per day for each violation or to a term of imprisonment of not less than one year, but not more than 10 years.
One of his attorneys, Karen Kuebler, argued Kattupalli should not have to go to prison because the statue is too vague.
Her pre-sentence memorandum also said no ordinary person can know what conduct is prohibited by the radiation protection law for an offense to reach the felony level because of the lack of definitions in the statute.
“It is totally at the whim of the prosecuting agency whether a violation of the act is prosecuted as a summary offense or as a felony offense,” Kuebler said.
Brian Manchester supplemented Kuebler’s memo and said vengeance is the wrong way of handling Kattupalli’s sentencing.
“As far as I know, this is the first prosecution of this,” Manchester said. “To make an example for society by putting this man in state prison would not be proper. This is an unusual crime.”
Acting Chief Deputy Attorney General Rebecca Franz disagreed in her sentencing memorandum.
“If all that is imposed is a fine, the defendant could decide that it is far cheaper to go without a certified radiologic technologist and hope to avoid detection,” Franz said. “Should he get caught, he would simply pay the fine for the days of the violation instead of hiring a full-time technologist, in which case any penalty would just amount to the cost of doing business.”
Franz also said incarceration is necessary to deter such behavior because Kattupalli’s crimes could erode the public’s confidence in the medical community.
“If we as a society cannot go to the doctor and trust that they are not only concerned about the current state of our health, but are doing everything in their power to protect our future health, where does that leave us?” Franz asked.
Kattupalli also addressed Judge Brian Marshall prior to sentencing.
“Thank you for your time. As you know, everything happened. Our mission is to provide the best health care to the community,” Kattupalli said. “I did not do anything for money. We have the best reviews in the entire town. None of those patients were actually harmed.”
Marshall said he believes Kattupalli’s action were driven by a profit motive, but also acknowledged the statute gives him broad discretion.
“Unfortunately, the legislature has basically put that discretion in two silos,” Marshall said.
Marshall sentenced Kattupalli to pay the minimum $32,500 fine, which is to be paid to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.