GUILTY: Vero doc Johnny Benjamin faces life sentence

FORT LAUDERDALE — Vero Beach spine surgeon Dr. Johnny Benjamin was convicted on five of the seven felony counts against him in federal court. A jury reached its verdict Friday.

Benjamin was accused of illegal drug distribution and providing the fentanyl-laced pain killer that caused a Palm Beach woman’s 2016 overdose death.

The case hinged on the testimony from Kevan Slater and Zachary Stewart, two DEA informants whom prosecutors said sold prescription and counterfeit pain pills on the street for Dr. Benjamin. They also assisted in a scheme to build the surgeon’s inventory of illegal pills as the illicit operation spread throughout the Treasure Coast.

Both men plead guilty and testified for the prosecution at Benjamin’s trial.

Benjamin faces a life sentence in prison. A sentence hearing is scheduled for July 6. He remains in federal custody.

He was found not guilty on two firearms-related charges.

Jurors said after the week-long trial that evidence linking the doctor’s arsenal of weapons found at his island home to his drug crimes was weak, but that finding him guilty of all other crimes was without dispute.

The case shows the U.S. Government’s commitment to ending the opioid crisis, prosecutor John McMillan said.

“The jury’s verdict after listening to the evidence clearly expresses their outrage with the conduct of a medical professional who abused his gift.”

Benjamin’s defense team declined to say if they will appeal the case. “We’re obviously happy with the two not guilty verdicts,” Defense Attorney Andrew Metcalf said. “We’re dissapointed with the verdict on the remaining counts.”

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