Federal Judge stops plea deal in cadaver dealer case after reading emotional letter

Posted at 6:33 PM, Jul 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-01 18:33:08-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — Federal judge Paul Borman hit the stop button in a gut-wrenching case affecting hundreds of families. They donated bodies of daughters, fathers, loved-ones for science. They were bought and sold on the black market by cadaver dealers for millions in profits in 3 states: Michigan, Illinois and Arizona.

The feds say there was fraud. Some diseased bodies with hepatitis were sold to the Detroit Medical Center Sports Medicine Department for medical training in 2013. They were supposed to be disease free.

John Butsch wrote a very emotional letter to the judge because these families are not considered victims by federal prosecutors.

Butsch tells 7 Action News from Chicago, “My daughter’s on ice in Detroit and has been for 4 1/2 years. Don’t call this victimless. And as well as over 190 people are in the same situation as I am. We want our loved-ones home.”

This case started in December of 2013 with a raid on a shabby warehouse on Detroit’s east side. Inside were the body parts of a thousand different people, arms legs, heads - some cut up with a chain saw and kept on ice for use in medical and dental training. The owner, Art Rathburn is now doing 9 years in prison.

The case expanded to Phoenix and Chicago and body donation programs that took in the cadavers and sold them to Rathburn and others.

Donald Greene Senior and Junior were the owners in Rosemont, Illinois and after 4 years made a plea deal with the feds in Detroit. But after reading the letter from Butsch, Judge Borman said he could not agree to the terms of the plea deal.

Donald Greene, Sr was charged with one count of wire fraud a 20 year felony. The recommended sentence, 21 to 27 months. Donald Greene, Jr, charged with one count of misprision of a felony, with a 3 year sentence. The recommendation from federal prosecutors, probation. Also no restitution.

Judge Borman is putting the case off for 3 weeks, telling both sides to look at a new plea deal and to brief him on the standing of the families.

That dad in Chicago says his and other voices have finally been heard, “It’s very rewarding to know that the effort that we put in here with a small group of people had some effect and put a pause on this.”