Detroit Free Press (MI)

October 29, 1982
Section: NWS
Page: 3A

TIM BELKNAP Free Press Staff Writer

A famous chest surgeon testified Wednesday that Dr. Ryan Krebs, charged with conspiring with Nellie Bell Kassim to operate a multimillion-dollar drug ring, was a "marvelous young man" who he would still welcome to accept a prestigious research post.

Dr. Henry Heimlich, inventor of the Heimlich maneuver credited with saving the lives of many choking victims, testified in federal court Thursday that Krebs, 29, is "like my son -- he's absolutely honest, and I can't conceive of him straying . . . I can't accept any of the things that I've heard charged against him."

Prosecutors say Krebs , one of six alleged co-conspirators on trial, wrote prescriptions that were used to get pills sold to junkies and dope dealers in Detroit and Washington, D.C.

They say Krebs opened the Jefferson Medical Clinic at 12874 E. Jefferson with Kassim in October 1981 and worked at other clinics owned by Kassim. Witnesses have described the clinics as prescription mills where customers -- who at best were given cursory medical examinations -- were given written orders for drugs and where bouncers were needed to keep order among unruly junkies.

Krebs was working part-time for Kassim while in his medical residency at the University of Michigan. Kassim, who became a government witness as part of a plea-bargaining deal, described Krebs as an initially naive doctor who, once he realized the scope of the operation, wanted to be a part of it and "make a million dollars" as fast as possible.

Heimlich, 62, said he first met Krebs 10 years ago through Heimlich's son, who was a classmate of Krebs' at Stanford University. Heimlich said he'd followed Krebs' education and "was impressed with his intelligence and decency."

Heimlich said Krebs visited the Heimlich family in Cincinnati between Dec. 11 and 13, 1981. Kassim had testified earlier that she had seen Krebs writing prescriptions for her in Detroit that weekend.

Heimlich said during that weekend he offered Krebs a job as associate director of the Heimlich Institute at Xavier University, "where he would have directed research and medical work."

But Heimlich said he learned Krebs was interested in a similar post at the Scripps Clinic in California, which Heimlich said is one of the finest clinics in the country.

Krebs also attended matches at a Davis Cup tennis tournament in Cincinnati that weekend, Heimlich said.

Under questioning from Krebs' attorney -- aimed at establishing the chest surgeon as a credible character witness -- Heimlich said he had established several medical procedures and devices along with the Heimlich maneuver, including a chest tube he used to save the life of a Chinese guerilla while serving behind Japanese lines in Inner Mongolia in World War II. The device was later used to save the lives of hundreds of wounded soldiers in Vietnam, Heimlich said.

Heimlich said he had won military decorations, honorary doctorates, humanitarian awards and an Emmy Award for "Dr. Henry's Emergency Lessons for People," an educational television program.

Heimlich's testimony is expected to continue today before U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs-Taylor.

Other defendants in the case are Shirley Bradley Danner, Maggie Curry, Linda Ricks and John Zellner -- all identified as employes of Kassim's -- and Bernard Levine, a pharmacist. Two other people were ordered acquitted Wednesday by Diggs-Taylor . The trial is in its fourth week.


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