Renowned Atlanta doctor who traded pills for sex pleads guilty in Cobb

Dr. Joseph L. Burton, a once-renowned medical examiner who has admitted writing and trading opioid prescriptions for sexual favors pleaded guilty in a similar case Tuesday in Cobb County.

Officials said Burton, 73, pleaded guilty two counts each of racketeering, fraud in obtaining controlled substances and violation of the Georgia controlled substances act. He will be sentenced in Cobb sometime after sentencing in federal court, which is scheduled for Aug. 29.

Burton, whose attorney has said the doctor needed mental testing and has suffered from delusions, pleaded guilty in a massive federal drug case in May. U.S. Attorney Byung J. "BJay" Pak said the operation resulted in 1,100 prescriptions, including one that led to a woman's death in 2016.

Burton's attorney, Buddy Parker, said in May psychiatric testing could help explain how the respected doctor fell so far after decades of service to counties including Cobb, Gwinnett, DeKalb and Clayton.

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In the past few years, Burton, of Milton, has had strokes, a car accident and, as recently as early May, was suffering from delusions and admitted briefly to a local hospital, Parker said.

Burton prescribed the pills even though he wasn’t running a doctor’s office and hadn’t seen some patients, authorities have said.

The defense attorney has said the prescriptions in exchange for sex were only a small percentage of those Burton wrote. The doctor didn’t even take money for the prescriptions, making his behavior harder still to explain.

In Cobb, he was one of 34 defendants charged in a sprawling indictment detailing the same type of scheme federal authorities convicted him on.

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