An American who treated Coretta Scott King and other terminally ill patients at his Mexican clinic was sentenced Friday to one year in jail for practicing medicine without a license.
Kurt Donsbach, who administered alternative treatments at his clinic just south of the border, sat with his head down as San Diego County Superior Court Judge Charles Rogers admonished him for spiking medications with drugs that were not approved for use in the United States.
"Alternative medicine is not on trial in this case. Mr. Donsbach is," the judge said.
Donsbach, 75, pleaded guilty in December to practicing medicine without a license, selling misbranded drugs, grand theft and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
At the time, the judge indicated the maximum sentence would be one year in jail, in part due to Donsbach's age.
Gina Darvas, a deputy district attorney, urged a stronger sentence Friday.
"He is a con man who will refuse to give up his con," she said.
The judge scheduled a restitution hearing for victims on June 6.
Donsbach's treatment of Martin Luther King Jr.'s widow in 2006 was not part of the case, but others spoke about how they felt betrayed by promises of a quick, miracle cure after seeking care at the clinic in the seaside town of Playas de Rosarito.
Anita Soos, who went to the clinic in 2001 to be treated for arthritis, said she unwittingly took drugs that were laced with dangerous steroids, causing migraine headaches that plagued her for years.
"I have unwillingly been placed in a prison of health issues that I never asked for," Soos, 62, said.
Donsbach did not speak in court, but his attorney Thomas Warwick said many patients benefited from his client's treatment in the past 50 years. He mentioned a 12-year-old boy who sought treatment for stem cell cancer and is now in his 20s.
"You can't legislate science because you don't know what the boundaries are," Warwick said.
Warwick said Coretta Scott King was treated for three days before she died at the Mexican clinic.
"There was nothing more medical science could do for her," he said.
Donsbach's license in Oregon to practice naturopathic medicine was revoked in 1990 after he was found to have forged a diploma and transcripts 15 years earlier, according to court records. He operated the Mexican clinic from 1983 to 2007, when it was closed by Mexican authorities.
Warwick said Donsbach was a licensed chiropractor in Mexico.
Donsbach, who lives in the San Diego suburb of Bonita, was convicted in 1997 of smuggling more than $250,000 worth of unapproved drugs into the United States from Mexico and income tax evasion, according to court records.