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Scott Co. doctor accused of fueling the drug crisis formally pleads guilty to distributing oxycodone

Dr. David Bruce Coffey formally entered a guilty plea to illegally distributing 60 oxycodone pills and another for depositing funds made from drug trafficking.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A federal district judge Thursday accepted a guilty plea from a longtime Scott Co. doctor who was accused of distributing millions of highly addictive pills at a rate of more than 1,640 pills per day.

Dr. David Bruce Coffey formally entered a guilty plea at the Howard Baker Federal Courthouse to two charges – one for illegally distributing 60 oxycodone pills and another for depositing funds he made from the drug trafficking. The charges carry a maximum of 20 years in prison, but legal experts contacted by 10News estimate he could face less than a year in prison.

Coffey’s attorney, Greg Isaacs, told District Judge Katherine Crytzer his client cooperated “extensively” with DEA agents beginning in 2018 and his cooperation has led to prosecutions in other jurisdictions. Isaacs also said Coffey, 70, suffers a litany of medical ailments including bouts of fainting, epilepsy and cardiac disorders. He said doctors at the Mayo Clinic diagnosed Coffey with suffering three strokes.

In a light blue suit, the white-haired doctor answered the judge’s questions as he formally entered the plea deal. The judge ordered his release pending his sentencing on Sept. 16.

The DEA had accused Coffey of prescribing 4.9 million addictive pills over eight years. The plea agreement outraged many lawmakers and leaders in the community who called the situation a "travesty of justice."

"Justice to me would probably have been about 20 years," said McCreary County Sheriff Randy Waters. Most of the drug dealers he busts face longer sentences than Coffey will under his plea agreement.

Coffey's physician's license expired in October 2021, records show. His clinic burned to the ground in a suspicious fire soon after the allegations became public. The clinic announced in July 2020 that it would permanently close the following month.