Former infertility doctor Cecil Jacobson, a Utahn, was sentenced Friday to five years in prison without the possibility of early parole and ordered to pay $116,805 in fines and victim restitution.
However, U.S. District Judge James C. Cacheris allowed him to remain free while he appeals. If he serves his sentence, he will do so at a minimum security facility at Nellis Air Force Base, Calif., to be nearer to his family in Utah.Jacobson was convicted March 4 on 52 fraud and perjury counts for lying about using his own sperm to impregnate up to 75 patients at his former Vienna, Va., practice, and creating false pregnancies in others in what prosecutors called a scheme to financially defraud them with bogus, expensive treatments.
He had faced a maximum possible sentence of 280 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.
Before sentencing, Jacobson told Cacheris he still feels he has done nothing criminal. But he said he regretted any harm that his acknowledged medical mistakes - including falsely telling women they were pregnant, misreading sonograms and using his own sperm on occasion without telling - had caused his patients.
"As God is my witness, I did not mean to harm these people. I hope they will forgive me, so the healing process can start," Jacobson said. "I truly did not want to hurt these people. I wanted to help them."
Because the prosecution had sought a minimum sentence of 10 years, Jacobson, 55, asked the judge to reduce it "because a sentence of this extent is nearly a life sentence." He still has three children at home, ages 11, 13 and 15.
Even though the sentence was not as stiff as prosecutor Randy Bellows had sought, he said it still "shows when doctors are found guilty of lying to their patients . . . a severe sentence will be meted out."
Jacobson's attorney, James Tate, said he will appeal immediately. "All he (Jacobson) thought he was doing was good. He still has his integrity. He will continue to stand up for what he believes."
Several victims of Jacobson - who arrived an hour early at the sentencing to ensure they had seats - complained the sentence was too light, while friends of Jacobson complained it was too harsh.
Victim Sharon Hayward said, "No amount of time would have been enough for him. I've been through this for 10 years."Jacobson led her to believe she had several miscarriages where the fetus was "resorbed" into her body. Other doctors said she never was pregnant but had simulated symptoms because of heavy hormone treatments Jacobson gave her.
Victim Deborah Gregory, who also had several false pregnancies and even wrote diaries to the babies she thought she would have, said, "I wish he had gone to jail today - but I feel he will eventually." Jacobson had called her non-existent babies "junior," and claimed to see them sucking thumbs in sonograms.
Carole Terry of Great Falls, Va., who said she has been a friend of Jacobson for 27 years, said, "I hope on appeal it will be wiped away. Jacobson does not have one bone of deceit. . . . The jury was influenced by the sensationalism in the media. The pain it has caused his family is unbelievable."Comment on this story
The five-year sentence, if served, technically does not carry the possibility of early parole. But Jacobson could earn one day's worth of early release for every month of good behavior - or a total of two months during the five-year period. He also was sentenced to three years of supervised release after that.
Jacobson was ordered to pay $77,805 in fines to the court within 90 days. He was also ordered to pay $39,000 restitution to victims who had children fathered by Jacobson when they believed sperm was coming from another donor - which in various cases they were falsely told would be tall, thin, Jewish or even, in one case, the patient's husband.
While prosecutors say Jacobson fathered up to 75 children, they presented genetics tests proving his parenthood with 99.99 percent certainty in only 15 cases.
Cacheris said he gave a stiffer sentence than the minimum called for under federal guidelines because of the nearly 100 letters he received from victims saying Jacobson's lies caused financial trouble, marital problems, deep depression, physical pain and spiritual agony.