SANTA ANA (CBS) — A Costa Mesa dentist who accidentally killed three of his patients by over-medicating them in 1983 had his parole overturned by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Tony Protopappas accidentally killed 9-year-old Patricia Craven, 23-year-old Kim Andreassen and 31-year-old Cathryn Jones by giving them the wrong dose of anesthesia or other medicine in the early 1980s.
He was convicted of second-degree murder in 1984 and sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.
Protopappas was granted parole July 21, after the Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled he should be freed unless there was new evidence showing he posed a danger to society.
Protopappas’ attorney, Richard Pfeiffer, successfully argued in his appeal of a May 29, 2008, parole denial that Protopappas does not pose a risk to society because he can no longer be a dentist.
KNX 1070’s Ron Kilgore says although Protopappas has served 25 years of his sentence, Schwarzenegger apparently felt it was not enough.
On Dec. 15, Schwarzenegger reversed the parole board’s decision, saying he still considered Protopappas to be a risk to society, because he has made statements to mental health evaluators over the years that indicate he blames his staff in part and has offered “hypertechnical” explanations of the deaths.
“Protopappas cannot ensure that he will not commit similar crimes in the future if he does not completely understand and accept full responsibility for his offenses,” Schwarzenegger wrote.
“The gravity of the crimes supports my decision,” the governor continued. “This evidence indicates that Protopappas still poses a risk of recidivism and violence and that his release from prison at this time would pose an unreasonable risk to public safety.”
Schwarzenegger noted Orange County prosecutors and Costa Mesa police also oppose Protopappas’ release.
Pfeiffer could not be immediately reached for comment, but in the past he has said Protopappas “feels a lot of remorse” for the deaths of his patients.
Protopappas was not accused of being under the influence of drugs when he accidentally killed his patients, but from the early 1970s through 1982 he drank six to 12 beers daily and used cocaine, codeine and Percodan pills, Schwarzenegger said.
Protopappas used his dental license to obtain the pills, the governor added.
In a mental health evaluation in 2009, Protopappas acknowledged his after-work substance abuse “negatively affected his dental practice, and probably contributed to his lack of judgement in committing the crimes,” the governor said.
Protopappas, though, for years has been involved in various 12-step and other therapeutic programs while in prison and has drawn praise from dentists for his work in prison as an assistant. He planned to work in his brother’s dental office in the prosthetics lab if he had been released, according to the governor.
Pfeiffer said earlier that if Schwarzenegger denied parole, he would ask a Superior Court judge to overturn the governor’s decision.
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