COLUMBIA CITY — Dr. James Hanus was soft-spoken and apologetic when he addressed the court Monday during his sentencing hearing, asking for forgiveness and sharing his pride in serving the Whitley County community.
“It was an honor to serve my patients,” Hanus said.
After a several-years-long investigation and court proceedings, the South Whitley physician, age 69, was sentenced after he pleaded guilty to two counts of dealing a controlled substance by a practitioner in August.
Per the decision handed down by Judge Doug Fahl, Hanus was sentenced to six years at the Indiana Department of Corrections with all but two years of that sentence suspended. He is expected to serve those remaining two years through Whitley County Community Corrections.
In addition to the sentence, Fahl also ruled that Hanus must forfeit his medical license, complete 200 hours of community service and pay a number of fees and restitution costs.
Whitley County Prosecutor Daniel Sigler, stated that the sentence was a “fair resolution,” for this case, but that there would be no amount of judicial action that could replace what so many of Hanus’ patients may have lost through addiction.
“We’ll never do full justice to those who have suffered at the hands of opioid addiction,” Sigler said. “At the same time, we want to make it known the very real dangers of substance addiction.”
The sentencing concluded an case that took over a year following Hanus’ arrest in July 2017. According to data from INSPECT, which tracks the number of prescriptions written for controlled substances, Hanus was identified as the health care provider with the third highest number of prescriptions with over 3,000 unique patients receiving those prescriptions between Jan. 1, 2015 and Aug. 20, 2016.
During the hearing, Fahl outlined several factors that went into his decision. Some of the aggravating factors included his position as a “physician of trust.” On the other hand, Fahl noted that Hanus’ willingness to accept responsibility for his actions was a mitigating factor as well as the large volume of correspondence the court received from Hanus’ friends, family and colleagues voicing their support for the doctor.