BY KRISTEN DELGUZZ
The Cincinnati Enquirer
After serving 27 months of his 10-year prison sentence on drug-related charges, former Cincinnati health commissioner Stanley Broadnax becomes a free man today.
The freedom will become official sometime after 8 a.m. - as soon as the 50-year-old sheds his blue prison uniform and collects his belongings at the Orient Correctional Institution.
His release is courtesy of Ohio's parole board, which in January cut short Mr. Broadnax's sentence by granting shock parole, a form of early release for nonviolent offenders.
Family members are expected to meet Mr. Broadnax outside the suburban Columbus prison to drive him back to his hometown of Cincinnati. When he arrives, he immediately must check in with his parole officer in Roselawn - a ritual he will have to perform regularly for at least the next year.
Then, Mr. Broadnax will head home to begin rebuilding his life and reputation, a task friends and experts say won't be easy for the man who once was among the most-respected leaders in town.
''Some of the difficulties he will experience are just re-entering society when his status has been completely eliminated,'' said Dr. Emmett Cooper, a Mount Auburn psychiatrist who knows Mr. Broadnax professionally and personally. He also testified on his behalf in 1994.
''He was one of the longest-serving - if not the longest-serving - health commissioners in Cincinnati history, and he ended up being convicted on drug charges,'' Dr. Cooper said. ''He has to adjust to that tremendous change in status, and that will be difficult.''
Though the transition will be filled with challenges, Mr. Broadnax's supporters say they will be with him every step of the way.
In Avondale, the Rev. H.L. Harvey Jr., pastor of the New Friendship Baptist Church, already is planning a party to honor and show support for Mr. Broadnax.
''This was a celebrity, in a sense of speaking,'' said the Rev. Harvey, who has known Mr. Broadnax for 20 years. ''He was a super fellow, and we should not let that go unnoticed because of what he did. We will open our arms to him.''
Mr. Broadnax's fall from grace began in January 1993, when The Enquirer reported that he had been calling in sick to his job as health commissioner to work part time as a doctor at a prison more than 100 miles away.
He was using the extra income to pay off mounting bills related to the dilapidated real estate he owned in Mount Auburn. That property has been foreclosed.
After Mr. Broadnax's duplicity was reported, the city's health board ordered him to repay thousands of dollars. On Feb. 4, 1993 - six days after the scandal surfaced - he resigned.
In the following months, he turned to drugs to dull the humiliation, according to testimony at his trial.
On Feb. 22, 1994, he was arrested at his Mount Auburn home and charged with drug-related offenses.
Months later, his first trial ended in a hung jury. But in October 1994, a Hamilton County jury found him guilty of drug abuse and aggravated trafficking in cocaine.
In November 1994, Common Pleas Judge William Morrissey, who now is retired, disregarded a pre-sentence investigation that recommended probation and imposed a 10-year prison sentence.
The harsh term, still the subject of criticism today, was the maximum possible for the charges.
''It's really amazing to me the extent to which this guy was punished for his first offense,'' Dr. Cooper said. ''They couldn't have given him a harsher sentence than they did.''
Once he settles back into life outside concrete walls and razor wire-topped fences, Mr. Broadnax will have to find a job and enter a drug treatment program.
Neither is optional, if he wants to remain a free man.
A treatment program will be easy - he already has participated in several while in prison - but finding a job could be a challenge for the man who no longer is licensed to practice medicine.
''He's going to have to call in some chips from people he has done favors for,'' Dr. Cooper said.
Among the first orders of business also must be a gesture to those who were hurt by Mr. Broadnax's crimes.
''The first thing he has to do is he has to ask for forgiveness and apologize to his friends and the young children of Cincinnati who looked up to him,'' said Dr. O'dell Owens, who served on the health board while Mr. Broadnax was commissioner.
Mr. Broadnax has said that he would like to preach to youngsters about the dangers of drugs and how they can ensnare anyone, from poor folks to socialites.
That message - and the messenger - would be welcome at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Cincinnati, ''and I'm sure other groups will feel the same way,'' said Bob Wallace, associate executive director of the agency.
''He's got a long history in Cincinnati, so he can talk about the same streets that our kids are exposed to, and that's really a message that can't be told too often,'' Mr. Wallace said.
Conditions of parole
When he meets his parole officer today, Stanley Broadnax will sign a form stipulating that he understands - and will abide by - the conditions of his parole, which will be in effect for at least the next year.
He also will make an appointment to return to the office sometime next week to undergo the screening and classification process, said Andrea Dean, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.
Once he is classified, Mr. Broadnax will learn how often he has to check in with his parole officer, from a maximum of three times a month to a minimum of once a month, Ms. Dean said.
He must attend a drug-rehabilitation program. He also must meet these standard parole conditions:
- No alcohol or drug abuse.
- No associating with known felons.
- Follow all laws.
- Do not move without first getting approval from parole officer.
- Take and pass routine, random drug tests.