NEW YORK -- A doctor once lauded for her AIDS treatment work is blaming one of her dozen or so personalities for a prescription painkillers scheme that defrauded Medicaid out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Diana Williamson was supposed to be sentenced on Monday, but U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska delayed a final determination until prison authorities say whether they can treat a variety of illnesses her lawyer says would certainly lead to her death behind bars.
The government has recommended Williamson, 56, go to prison for 11 years or more, but defense lawyer Jonathan Marks says any prison time would be a death sentence because Williamson has several severe medical issues that can't be treated in prison and require occasional emergency trips to a hospital.
Marks told the judge that his client deserved unusual leniency because she didn't know she was carrying out crimes. He said the crimes were carried out by Nala, one of her multiple personalities. He said Nala was "mischievous, irresponsible, reckless and, as we have just discovered, criminal."
The judge seemed skeptical of the multiple personality argument.
"I guess I'm having trouble understanding that with the defendant's remarkable medical career, having founded an AIDS hospital ... it doesn't seem to have impaired her ability to function as a medical professional," the judge said.
She delayed sentencing after a prosecutor acknowledged Williamson's severe medical issues and said a Bureau of Prisons official would have to say whether the prisons could handle her issues.
The government says Williamson defrauded Medicaid out of about $300,000, part of roughly $1 million that a wider conspiracy managed to scam from the program. Prosecutors say Williamson wrote phony prescriptions for about 11,000 painkiller pills that were bought with Medicaid benefits and then peddled on the street.
Authorities said the ring mostly dealt in oxycodone, a highly addictive pain medication often sold on the black market for $20 to $40 per pill as a substitute for heroin and other illegal drugs.
Two decades ago, Williamson, of Harlem, made a business magazine's list of young professionals on the rise.
Williamson, who has pleaded guilty in the case, declined to speak in court on Monday. In a letter to the judge, she blamed Nala, saying she "committed these crimes without telling Diana or the other parts of me about them."
"Perhaps it sounds incredible that a part of me could be doing something that the rest of me would not know about," Williamson said. "But everything about dissociative disorder is difficult to fathom for those who do not have it."