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Daughter of Medford massacre victim wants the max for convicted pain pill doctor

Dr. Stan Xuhui Li walks in the hallway

Dr. Stan Xuhui Li walks in the hallway of State Supreme Court in lower Manhattan during the first day of his trial on Wednesday, April 2, 2014. Credit: Charles Eckert

Pain pill doctor Stan Xuhui Li was not charged with the Haven Drug murders committed by patient David Laffer, but the daughter of one of Laffer's victims has urged the judge sentencing Li for reckless prescribing to offer no leniency at all.

"It is my wish that Dr. Xuhui Li receive the maximum sentence allowed by the courts and is not shown any mercy," Laura Bustamante, whose father, Bryon Sheffield, was killed by Laffer, wrote in a letter to Manhattan state Supreme Court Justice Michael Sonberg.

Li, 60, a New Jersey anesthesiologist, will be sentenced Dec. 19 on his July conviction of manslaughter for prescribing painkillers that killed two men, six counts of reckless endangerment and 180 counts of illegally selling prescriptions to Laffer and others.

He was Laffer's most prolific pain-pill prescriber -- 2,520 pills -- over the 21 months before the June 2011, Medford pharmacy robbery in which Laffer killed a pharmacist, a cashier and two customers. Sheffield, 71, was filling a prescription for his ill wife.

"The tragic event . . . would never have happened if Dr. Stan Li was a responsible human being and took his oath of a physician sacred," Bustamante said in her four-page letter to Sonberg. "The Hippocratic oath is one of the oldest binding documents in history.

"Instead, Dr. Li chose to be driven by greed. The public needs protection from criminally reckless and unscrupulous physicians, which results in addiction, harm to patients and loss of life."

Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan's office has asked for a mix of consecutive and concurrent sentences totaling 12 to 20 years, which would incarcerate Li for at least 10 years with credits for good behavior.

At trial, prosecutors said his loose practices at a Queens pain clinic made Li a poster boy for opioid abuse, raking in $450,000 while seven patients died of overdoses. He is believed to be the first New York doctor convicted of manslaughter for his prescribing behavior.

Bustamante's letter is one of seven victim statements filed in the case. The others are all from relatives of patients harmed by pills Li prescribed, including Joseph Haeg of East Moriches, whose death was the subject of one of the manslaughter convictions.

In court Thursday, Li's lawyer asked Sonberg to reject the letter from Bustamante, but the judge said he had no control over what is filed. The defense lawyer, Raymond Belair, did not respond to a request for comment.

Bustamante described Sheffield as a dependable family man, laying out the losses suffered by his wife, brother, two children and five grandchildren, and told the judge her mother lived with "extreme loss and emptiness" before dying earlier this year.

"Any sentence you hand out today will not bring either one of my parents back to us," she wrote. "However, I trust that you will remember the four souls . . . that had their lives taken because of Dr. Li's reckless prescribing of pain medication that ultimately led a drug addicted patient of his to commit murder."

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