Author Kaye Gibbons pleads guilty in drug case

March 10, 2009 11:27:35 AM PDT
Kaye Gibbons posed as a Florida doctor so she could fill prescriptions for painkillers, which she said took the edge off as she finished a novel, a prosecutor said at the best-selling author's sentencing.

Earlier in the day, Gibbons pleaded guilty to five misdemeanor counts of obtaining property by fraud. She received a 90-day suspended jail sentence, two years of probation and a $300 fine. District Court Judge Ned Mangum also ordered her to undergo a drug assessment and random drug testing during probation.

Her addiction and the pressure of finishing her book pushed her to submit fraudulent hydrocodone prescriptions online and try to pick them up at Raleigh pharmacies under the name of a Florida physician, said her attorney, Roger Smith Jr.

"She's just glad to have this part behind her, and she's looking forward to moving on," Smith said.

Gibbons, who declined to speak with reporters, sat quietly in court beside her brother, David Batts. She used a black ink pen to edit a version of her latest novel, "The Secret Devotions of Mary Magdalene," which is to be published by Harcourt Brace.

Gibbons, originally facing several felony drug charges, pleaded guilty to the five misdemeanors in an agreement with prosecutors. The charges were consolidated into two counts for sentencing purposes.

The novelist has openly spoken about her life, detailing two divorces, an addiction to prescription painkillers and being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. A fictionalized version of her troubled childhood, during which her mother committed suicide, was the setting for her first novel, "Ellen Foster."

Prosecutors said Gibbons posed as a Florida doctor when she submitted a prescription online for hydrocodone. She was stopped Aug. 9 when she tried to pick up the prescription at a Raleigh pharmacy. She told authorities at the time that she had done the same thing on several previous occasions.

She was arrested again Nov. 2 at another pharmacy.

Smith said Gibbons, 48, has received inpatient treatment to control her addiction and continues to meet several times a week with a counselor. She's also now living with her brother and his wife in her hometown of Rocky Mount.

She's also been speaking at high schools and college students about the perils of drug abuse.

"She's turning this into a positive," Smith told the judge.