A personal physician and a long-time aide of the late Howard Hughes pleaded no contest to federal drug conspiracy charges Monday in U.S. District Court.
Dr. Norman F. Crane, 72, and John Morrison Holmes, 62, were convicted by Judge Roger Foley after their plea of nolo contendre to feeding the late industrialist's narcotics habit between 1955 and 1974. The pair had pleaded not guilty to the charges prior to their Monday court appearance.
Foley set sentencing for them for Oct. 23. They could receive a maximum of 20 years in prison and a fine, Foley said.
Crane and Holmes were indicted by the grand jury in March on charges of conspiring to furnish codeine phosphate and empirin codeine to Hughes while he lived in Las Vegas, in California, England, Canada and the Bahamas.
Their lawyers, Thomas Gasparine and William Betting, of Los Angeles, informed Foley of a plea bargain agreement with the U.S. attorney's office. According to the agreement, said said Betting, Crane and Holmes face no further prosecution in the case, in exchange for cooperating with federal authorities.
Asst. U.S. Atty. Bill Turner would not comment on the cases with which Crane and Holmes have agreed cooperate, although he said it would be in connection with knowledge they have on "any and all investigations that we feel are important under the drug enforcement laws."
According to the grand jury indictment on the two, Crane would write and authorize prescriptions for codeine phosphate and empirin codeine to be filled in other persons' names and Holmes would pick up the prescriptions in the names of the other persons and take them Hughes.
The grand jurors said this was to conceal Hughes' addiction to narcotics.
Crane is a Los Angeles physician, while Holmes was a Hughes aide for about 20 years and a member of Summa Corp.'s board of directors for four years in the early 1970s.
Still another Hughes physician faces similar charges at Salt Lake City.
Dr. Wilbur S. Thain, 53, who pronounced Hughes dead in 1976, was indicted by a Salt Lake federal grand jury in June for allegedly supplying Hughes with codeine phosphate.
Thain is a brother-in-law of F.W. Gay, who was president of Summa until he retired earlier this year.