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GUILTY: Pharmacist Tim Bishop could face up to 60 years in prison

Posted: Friday, December 14, 2012 3:57 pm | Updated: 12:50 pm, Tue Dec 18, 2012.

Jurors spent just more than three hours in deliberations before convicting Marshall County pharmacist Tim Bishop on six drug-related charges Thursday. Bishop was found guilty on three counts of unlawful distribution of a controlled substance and three counts of unlawful dispensing of a controlled substance without a valid prescription. Bishop will be sentenced on Jan. 25 at 10 a.m. at the Guntersville Court House. Retired Judge Sam Monk, a longtime judge presiding over Calhoun and Cleburn counties, heard the case. As the verdicts were announced, Bishop’s son, Matthew, sat with his head in his hands, shaking his head as if in disbelief. Nearby, Matthew’s mother and Tim’s wife, Peggy, sat surrounded by friends and family members. Marshall County District Attorney Steve Marshall said he was happy with the trial’s outcome. “There has never been a better drug case prepared,” Marshall said. “We had audio and video recording and eyes on the drugs. Absent the jury being there, I don’t think we could have shown more.” Marshall said Bishop now faces up to 60 years in prison. Attempts to speak with Bishop and his wife, Peggy, were unsuccessful as the couple fled the courthouse minutes after the verdict was announced. Bishop is accused of having an intimate relationship with Courtney Williamson and trading sex for drugs. An investigation into the allegations began on Sept. 30, 2010, after Bishop’s employees watched as he put drugs from his Scant City store into a plastic bag with candies, and placed the bag behind a Coke machine on the store’s front porch. The bag – later found to contain controlled substances such as Lortabs, Zanax and codeine syrup – was picked up by Williamson. Williamson was arrested by Arab Chief Investigator Scotty Watson about 200 yards away from Bishop’s store and the drugs were found inside her vehicle. She agreed to become an informant, ultimately setting up two additional transactions with Bishop on Oct. 1 and 5, 2010. On both dates, Williamson was outfitted with a video recording device by Watson and additional law enforcement officers were watching the transaction under cover from nearby locations. The recordings were played during the trial along with audio recordings of phone calls between Williamson and Bishop setting up the transactions. Defense Attorney Bruce Gardner and Bishop alleged Williamson tried to “set him up” by trading the over-the-counter drugs Bishop said he provided Williamson with the controlled substances she must have had in her possession earlier. Bishop also said the recorded phone calls were misleading because, at some points in the recordings, he is talking to Williamson while at other times, he was speaking to others in the store. Bishop claimed he had provided Williamson only with medications he mixed at the pharmacy, such as generic forms of Benadryl, Tylenol and Robitussin. Prosecutors said it was unbelievable and unreasonable to think Williamson would travel from Albertville across the county to Arab to pick up non-prescription drugs she could have procured. However, Assistant District Attorney Mitch Floyd said it was believable she would travel that distance to get Lortabs and other medications without a prescription. Marshall said police searched Williamson and her vehicle before she went to retrieve the medications and “she would have to be (Harry) Houdini to pull off that kind of slight of hand.” Marshall said the only other explanation was if “the Controlled Substance Fairy came down to Scant City invisibly and switched it out.” Defense witnesses included Johnny Hart, former mayor of Arab and director of the county’s 911 service, and former pharmacists Durwood Cushing and Larry Brown. All three characterized Bishop as being a man with a good reputation who worked to help customers. “I’m thankful the jury did what they did,” Marshall said. “During the course of our investigation, we discovered multiple violations in both his stores in Scant City and in Albertville. Unfortunately, the statute of limitations had run out on some of the violations so we couldn’t prosecute.” Marshall said Bishop, who was licensed by the state Board of Pharmacy and a past president of the same board, abused his position of trust within the community. “When you are licensed and are a professional that your customers trust, you are automatically held to a standard,” Marshall said. “He abused his position for his own gratification of his sexual desires and that warrants jail time.” Bishop was allowed to remain free under a $60,000 bond posted at the time of his arrest. Additional restrictions imposed by Monk include Bishop is not to contact any of the prosecution’s witnesses or Williamson, and is not allowed behind the pharmacy counter at his store. Bishop was initially arrested on Oct. 7, 2010, by Arab Alcohol, Narcotics, Vice, Intelligence and Laundering Unit, assisted by the Marshall County Drug Unit, Albertville VICE and Narcotics Unit, Marshall County District Attorney’s Office, the Alabama Board of Pharmacy and Guntersville Police. He was booked into the Arab City Police Department and later released on $60,000 bond. Under provision of his bond, Bishop is not allowed to be in contact with controlled substances, but is allowed to be at his store to oversee operations, Marshall said at the time of Bishop’s arrest.

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