Crime & Courts

Wichita doctor facing criminal drug charges pleads not guilty

Steven R. Henson
Steven R. Henson Courtesy of Sedgwick County Jail

A Wichita doctor indicted on federal drug and money laundering charges was ordered released from custody Friday on a $50,000 unsecured bond after appearing before a U.S. District Court magistrate judge.

Steven R. Henson is facing 31 criminal counts alleging he diverted prescription drugs to the streets, including substances that led to the overdose death of one patient last summer.

During Henson’s first appearance in federal court Friday, prosecutor Michelle Jacobs asked Judge Gwynne Birzer to give him unsupervised release because he “does not appear to be a flight risk.”

She, however, asked that his freedom come with a number of conditions — including that he not leave the state, refrain from contacting eight other people implicated in the case and surrender his passport.

Jacobs also asked the judge to order Henson to surrender his firearms, saying that although he isn’t prohibited by law from possessing one, he had tucked a handgun into the waistband before greeting law enforcement officers who had identified themselves at his door recently.

Birzer granted Henson’s release with those conditions and also ordered him to avoid international travel and drug use.

Henson’s defense attorney Kurt Kerns said in court that his client plans to turn his firearms over to his brother. He also said Henson had lost his passport and would not reapply.

Referencing Jacobs’ comments about Henson answering his door armed, Kerns said doing so wasn’t unreasonable “because anyone could come to the door and yell that they’re the cops.”

Henson, 54, waived his right to have the full slate of charges against him read aloud in court Friday afternoon. He entered a “not guilty” plea in the case.

Henson wore a yellow zippered sweatshirt, black pants and shackles at his ankles and wrists during his hearing. He gave quick and clear “Yes, ma’am” and “no” answers to Birzer’s questions.

He also said he was not under treatment by a doctor for any condition that would cloud his understanding of the charges, nor was he under the influence of any substances.

Henson, who his attorney said Thursday is a pain specialist, is charged with multiple counts including conspiring to distribute prescription drugs outside the course of his medical practice; unlawfully distributing oxycodone, methadone and alprazolam; unlawful possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking; of giving false patient records to investigators; money laundering, and obstruction of justice.

The indictment alleges he doled out prescriptions in exchange for cash, without a medical need and without an exam. It also accuses him of postdating prescriptions, of writing them for people who weren’t his patients, and of depositing $312,402.50 in cash gained through the conspiracy into several Kansas banks.

One count involved at least 22,396 30-milligram oxycodone tablets. Another alleges that a person identified in court records by the initials N.M. died on July 24, 2015, from overdosing on methadone and alprazolam distributed by Henson.

Eight others who received prescriptions from Henson also have been charged federally with unlawfully distributing prescription drugs. Some of the charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison and a $1 million fine.

Henson, who received his Kansas medical license in 1990, operated Kansas Men’s Clinic at 3636 N. Ridge Road, according to the indictment. He leased medical office space there from Via Christi, hospital spokeswoman Roz Hutchinson confirmed Friday.

The office, which appeared to be vacant Friday with no signage, is in a development off North Ridge called Via Christi Ridge Plaza.

Henson was arrested and booked into the Sedgwick County Jail on Thursday morning.

Contributing: Tim Potter of The Eagle

Amy Renee Leiker: 316-268-6644, @amyreneeleiker