Former VA pathologist who misdiagnosed thousands of cases sentenced to 20 years

State News

Levy's actions described as "egregious, arrogance, self-righteous indignation" by Judge Brooks

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Former VA pathologist Robert Morris Levy was sentenced to 240 months in prison for involuntary manslaughter and mail fraud, by U.S. District Court, Western District of Arkansas Judge Timothy Brooks, on Friday, January 22.

  • 8 years for Involuntary Manslaughter
  • 20 years for Mail Fraud
  • Sentences are to be concurrent

After serving 20 years in prison, Levy will serve a period of three years of release and report to the probation officer to the district to which he’s released. Mandatory drug testing and no firearm possession are two of several stipulations, as was part of the plea agreement.

Restitution to the VA in the amount of $497,745.70 needs to be paid, interest-free, by Levy, according to Judge Brooks. Levy has 14 days to file an appeal.

Levy was employed by the Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks (VHCSO) from 2005 until he was terminated in 2018 — that’s when Levy was arrested for driving under the influence. However, prior to the termination date, he was found to be impaired while at work several times, according to court documents.

Robert Levy in Fayetteville, Ark. federal court for sentencing. | Artist: John Kushmaul

The second day of the hearing began with Judge Brooks agreeing with the government that the damage done does exceed the $2.1 million cost of the government’s “lookback” study. It was also determined that the sentencing guideline range would be increased to between seven to nine years because more than one death happened from the errors of diagnoses, and the plea agreement was approved.

Judge Brooks: “This was a way to defraud.”

Judge Brooks said he found Levy’s timeline disturbing, “he had just come off rehab [September], and by November he is plotting. He is doing this because if his use of intoxicants were discovered again, he would be fired and lose benefits. He was planning a way to be intoxicated and at the same time to provide [clean] urine and blood samples, which were part of his contract.”

Judge Timothy Brooks

The government stated: “[Levy] performed his job with utter disregard for human life.”

VICTIM IMPACT STATEMENTS

Victim’s families of former Fayetteville VA Chief pathologist Robert Levy give testimony during day two of federal sentencing. | Artist: John Kushmaul

Through the tears and emotional testimony

“It will be years before the atrocities, a malicious disregard for human life … not just an accident … be realized. I will spend the rest of my life with ‘what if’ had my father lived. It doesn’t end today, I had 25 years of him being my daddy.”

“My dad had a biopsy nine years ago and was told it was benign diagnoses and was mistreated for six years. My dad served in the U.S. Army and he was a healthy 81-year-old man. By the time he found out about the seriousness [of his cancer] my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.” He spent his last Christmas alone, our dad deserves some justice, today. “

ROBERT MORRIS LEVY STATEMENT TO THE COURT, IN PART

“I take responsibility for John R. Gibbs’ death. It shows wanton disregard … arrogance … and [I] found it wrong to quickly resolve the case, but again with inadequate consideration. And, on two additional occasions resulting in the death of a former airman who may be 67 today.

Regarding mail fraud. The first drink right out of recovery [was wrong]. I turned my back … I broke my contract with the government. I’m angry with myself, and it just penetrates the surface of how I became this man. My plan going forward is to continue in the alcohol rehabilitation community to get the best long-term therapeutic strategy. I apologize to those that have impacted you all. I will stop my statement here. Thank you, your honor.”

Robert Morris Levy statement to the court
James McGuire gives a victim impact statement. | Artist: John Kushmaul

In addition to the statements, a video that outlined the life of a victim, USAF veteran John Ray Gibbs, of Bentonville, who died July 26, 2014, was entered into the court as an “exhibit.” Judge Brooks called it, “a living biography, rare to have an opportunity to learn about his service.” A collection of photographs were also given to the court.

Western District of Arkansas in Fayetteville Courtroom during the sentencing of Robert Levy. | Artist: John Kushmaul

Judge Brooks: “Alcoholism is a disease and it’s mitigating. It’s one thing to destroy your own body, but to get behind the wheel drunk, but you enter a hospital and provide treatment drunk.

Judge Brooks laid out several scenarios about Levy’s addiction, but addressed that the Arkansas Crime Lab had to invent a process to detect the intoxicant Levy was taking — 2M2B. Also, “You would write letters to the VA, of being mistreated because you were being accused of drinking on the job without evidence. ‘How dare they say these things about Chief Levy.’ At the same time, you’re creating a plan to conceal the offensive conduct you were engaging in, who does that?” The judge asked as he addressed the former pathologist.

Judge Brooks said Levy’s letters from his siblings talked about growing up and having compassion to help others. “It’s why you went to medical school and served the country. But the family noticed a change. Their observation, where you’ve become disenfranchised from the family, was that you lost your ability to become compassionate.” This goes hand-in-hand with alcoholism, according to Judge Brooks.

“This indictment should remind us all that this country has a responsibility to care for those who have served us honorably. When that trust is violated through criminal conduct, those responsible must be held accountable. Our veterans deserve nothing less.

U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas Duane (DAK) Kees

“The arrest of Dr. Levy was accomplished as a result of the strong leadership of the US Attorney’s Office and the extensive work of special agents of the VA Office of Inspector General, supported by the medical expertise of the OIG’s healthcare inspection professionals. These charges send a clear signal that anyone entrusted with the care of veterans will be held accountable for placing them at risk by working while impaired or through other misconduct. Our thoughts are with the veterans and their families affected by Dr. Levy’s actions.”

Michael Missal, Inspector General of the Department of Veterans Affairs

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