It was a small victory for a grieving mother, but one that will make little difference to the chiropractor accused of causing the woman's epileptic daughter's death through fraudulent treatment.
Dauphin County Judge John F. Cherry imposed the maximum term of 3-6 months in prison and a $500 fine on Joanne Gallagher for violating the state's chiropractic regulations in the death of Kimberly Strohecker.
Strohecker, 31, died April 29, 1999, from numerous violent seizures after Gallagher advised her to stop taking anti-convulsive medication.
Cherry's sentence will mean little because a deal cut when Gallagher pleaded guilty called for the deal to run concurrently with whatever federal sentence she received on fraud charges.
Gallagher was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison last week. She must report to prison on April 6.
Cherry said he agreed with Strohecker's mother, Dawn, that other authorities should have taken action against the Hazleton chiropractor.
For five years Dawn Strohecker fought to have Gallagher charged with manslaughter, but former Schuylkill County District Attorney Claude A. L. Shields refused to press charges.
That decision was upheld by the county court and state Superior Court. Shields' successor, Frank R. Cori, said he would have pressed manslaughter charges, but the statute of limitations had expired.
It wasn't until federal authorities picked up the fraud case that Gallagher faced any prosecution in the death.
About 200 of Gallagher's supporters attended last week's sentencing hearing, saying prayers requesting mercy for Gallagher.
At yesterday's hearing, which was attended only by Gallagher's husband and their priest, Strohecker called the group a cult and Gallagher a "greed-driven monster" and a "murderer."
"How could three priests say she was of good character when she was responsible for our daughter's senseless, horrible death?" a tearful Dawn Strohecker asked Cherry.
Gallagher told Cherry she felt "sorrowful" for the Strohecker family and wanted to make peace with them.
Gallagher claimed to Strohecker and other patients that she could cure epilepsy and Down syndrome by waving her hands around their heads and necks, what she termed "balancing the meninges."
Strohecker began seeing Gallagher with her fiancee, a Jehovah's Witness who wanted her to get off her medication, authorities said.
Strohecker, who had lived fairly normally on medication, arrived at her last appointment with Gallagher the day before she died in a wheelchair, wearing adult diapers, choking on vomit, with her tongue nearly bitten through.
At the outset of her federal trial this summer, the mother of Strohecker's fiancee produced a tape recording of a telephone call in which Gallagher assured her the continuous grand mal seizures Strohecker was suffering was the anti-seizure medicine working its way out of her body.
Strohecker died hours after the phone call.
The tape led Gallagher to plead guilty to the fraud charge.
Gallagher's attorney, Matthew R. Gover, asked Cherry for probation, but said the additional sentence will likely make no difference in the amount of time Gallagher serves.
"I have always felt that having two separate prosecuting agencies pursue a prosecution for the same conduct is a little much," Gover said.
PETE SHELLEM: 255-8156 or firstname.lastname@example.org