By Nate Raymond
BOSTON (Reuters) - Prosecutors have asked a federal judge to sentence a Massachusetts pharmacy executive to at least 35 years in prison after he was convicted of racketeering and fraud charges for his role in a deadly 2012 U.S. meningitis outbreak.
Barry Cadden, the co-founder of the now-defunct New England Compounding Center, was convicted of those charges by a jury in March but cleared of the harshest charge he faced, second-degree murder charges. His lawyers urged the judge to consider a much shorter sentence of about three years.
A murder conviction would have meant a life sentence, and prosecutors in a court filing late on Thursday said Cadden, 50, said that punishment was still warranted.
They said Cadden's conduct led to 76 deaths, a figure higher than the 64 that authorities previously said resulted from a fungal meningitis outbreak that sickened 753 people in 20 states who received injections of tainted steroids sold by his company.
"The magnitude and ripple effects of the pain caused by the loss of life is immeasurable," prosecutors wrote.
Cadden's lawyers in their own filing ahead of Monday's sentencing acknowledged he "did things, and particularly failed to do things, that in hindsight he deeply regrets."
But they said prosecutors were trying to present a "demonized picture" of Cadden, who deserved 30 to 37 months in prison. They said he was not convicted of knowing the drugs were contaminated, just of misrepresenting how they were made.
Cadden was one of 14 people tied to Framingham, Massachusetts-based New England Compounding Center (NECC) indicted in 2014 following the outbreak.
Prosecutors said Cadden, NECC's head pharmacist, ran the company as a criminal enterprise that sold substandard and non-sterile drugs produced in filthy conditions and shipped to medical facilities nationally for use on unsuspecting patients.
They said Cadden directed the shipment of 17,600 vials of contaminated steroids often prescribed for back pain despite knowing they were made in unsafe conditions, leading to the outbreak.
The victims included Douglas Wingate, a 47-year-old Virginian who died after receiving an injection in September 2012 for back and neck pain.
Sharon Wingate, his wife, said she plans to attend the sentencing and wants to see Cadden "spend the rest of his life in prison."
"So many people have been impacted by this that I'm hoping the judge will use this to give us our day, give us the victims our day, our justice," she said in a recent interview.
(Reporting by Nate Raymond; Editing by Scott Malone, Bernard Orr)