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As Netflix's latest true crime docu-series shows, anyone can become an avenging hero. But on the flip side, anyone can also become a villain.
"The Pharmacist," a four-part show that premiered on February 5 on the streaming service, focuses on a Louisiana pharmacist named Dan Schneider, who's spurred into action after his 22-year-old son, Danny Jr., is shot to death while buying crack in April 1999.
When police failed to find answers, Schneider took matters into his own hands and investigated his son's murder himself, eventually locating the killer — but that's not where Schneider's fight for justice ended.
Instead, after noticing a slew of people bringing in prescriptions for OxyContin – people who seemingly didn't have chronic pain and need for the drug, he focused his efforts on taking down a local doctor named Jacqueline Cleggett.
Who Is Jacqueline Cleggett?
Jacqueline Cleggett grew up in Moss Point, Mississippi before getting a medical degree at Morehouse School of Medicine. She married an emergency room physician and had three children; they eventually divorced. After working for a time as a family practitioner, she started a job at Gulf South Medical Consultants, where she specialized in soft tissue exams for personal injury clients, as well as opening up her own small private practice in New Orleans East, according to local outlet NOLA.com.
Eventually, she later claimed, it became "too demanding," and she quit Gulf South, opening up a new office in a seedy area with a high crime rate. She got a a certificate from the American Academy of Pain Medicine, hired police officers to guard the building, and started advertising as a pain management specialist.
Soon enough, Schneider became suspicious of the flood of prescriptions coming in to his pharmacy, all signed off on by Jacqueline Cleggett. These patients were often young with no sign of chronic illness or pain, and rarely were prescribed any dosage under 40 mg. She almost never sent in prescriptions for antibiotics or other pain medication. Schneider, who had seen firsthand with his son how addiction ruins lives, started yet another investigation — this one into Cleggett.
After staking out her office and talking to patients, Schneider discovered Cleggett was operating a supremely shady business: she ran her office at late hours, often until 2 a.m. in the morning. Payments were always done in cash and people came from other states to seek prescriptions from her — people who didn't need OxyCotin, let alone the high dosages she willingly provided — for a fee. Between 2000 and 2001, she prescribed thousands of bottles of OxyContin, netting in at least half a million dollars for herself, NOLA.com reports.
What Happened To Jacqueline Cleggett?
Schneider eventually got the attention of both the medical board – which revoked Cleggett's medical license in 2002 – and the authorities, who started an investigation of their own into the shady ex-doctor. Eventually, it was uncovered she was also selling to a group of people who then sold OxyContin throughout Mississippi. Seventeen of those people were arrested and sent to prison for selling the drugs given to them by Cleggett, according to a separate report from NOLA.com.
Cleggett was set to go to an evidentiary hearing in court to try to get her license back in 2002, but she never showed up. Instead, she had been admitted to the psychiatric ward at DePaul-Tulane Behavioral Health Center. She was suspected of abusing opioids herself at the time, NOLA.com reports.
In the following years, she'd be hit by a number of lawsuits by former patients while she struggled to make ends meet, even filing for bankruptcy despite the millions she'd amassed from her questionable medical practices. But then in 2006, she was involved in a serious car accident which gave her serious brain damage and left her partially paralyzed.
"I had a hangman's fracture, which is what happens when you hang from a noose and break your neck," she said in an interview in "The Pharmacist." "I had two brain hemorrhages, five skull fractures. The reason why I sound different is because I was intubated for six weeks. My voice is now higher and squeakier. Following the accident I was prescribed OxyContin. And, no, I didn't have any problems with it. Actually it helped alleviate a lot of pain."
Cleggett's injuries from the car crash were so severe, a medical evaluator at the time said there was "almost no chance" she could practice medicine again; in fact the evaluator doubted she would ever be able to live independently again either, according to NOLA.com.
The injuries didn't stop her from being finally indicted by authorities: In 2007, she was charged with illegally distributing OxyContin, Vicodin, methadone and other drugs between June 2000 and February 2002. She faced up to 20 years in jail and a $1 million fine, the local outlet reported at the time.
She was residing in an assisted living facility then and because of her "extraordinary physical impairment" was unable to participate in her own defense. She was able to strike a plea deal, though: She pled guilty to one count of conspiring to dispense and distribute controlled substances in July 2009 and was sentenced to three months probation.
Cleggett, currently in her mid-50s, lives in an apartment in East Baton Rouge, according to public records. She has almost entirely disappeared from the public eye – aside from her interview in "The Pharmacist."
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