Court-martialed Navy vet who possibly exposed 1,340 patients to HIV sentenced to 6 1/2 years

28 year-old Navy veteran Rocky Allen.

A Navy veteran, who worked at a surgery technician after being court-martialed from the Navy for drug use, was sentenced to 6 ½ years in federal prison on Monday for stealing a syringe with the powerful painkiller from an operating room in suburban Denver.

28-year-old Navy veteran Rocky Allen was arrested in April, federally charged for diverting and tampering with medications in a way that could have exposed patients to HIV and hepatitis.

In July, he pleaded guilty to taking the syringe filled with fentanyl and leaving behind one with saline to be used on an elderly woman about to undergo surgery, according to KOMO.

Allen served in Afghanistan and was court-martialed by the Navy in 2011 for stealing the very same drug. The record of that court martial would have been available to any of the hospitals before they hired Allen, meaning that they either ignored the records or failed to do a background check.

The syringe left behind for the elderly woman was not used as she had already gotten a dosage of fentanyl before Allen entered the room. The discovery of the missing drug prompted the Swedish Medical Center -where the incident occurred- to warn patients of possible exposure to HIV.

Because Allen is HIV positive, the center notified 1,340 people who had surgery in early 2012 in an operating room where he worked.

28 year-old Navy veteran Rocky Allen.
28 year-old Navy veteran Rocky Allen.

To date, about 2,400 patients were tested, but no transmission of HIV has been found, KOMO reported.

Allen read a letter to US. District Judge Raymond Moore in court apologizing for the suffering he caused and thanked the authorities for leading him to get help for post-traumatic stress disorder which he developed after serving as a Navy medic at a hospital in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Prosecutors asked for a ten year sentence for Allen, who was eligible for 14 years, partly because of his guilty plea. Allen’s public defender asked for 2 1/2 years, claiming Allen’s criminal history is less than those of addicts who have been given more lenient sentences.

Judge Moore stated that Allen’s punishment had to account for the fear of contracting HIV he caused for hundreds of patients and concealing his previous firings amid allegations of drug thefts.  Moore stated the Allen had already been shown leniency for stealing drugs at the Kandahar hospital while in the Navy.

The Swedish Medical Center spent around $800,000 to pay for patients to be tested for disease after Allen’s syringe theft.

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