In what it termed a "difficult decision," the Utah Board of Pardons granted an Oct. 9, 1990, parole date for a former Salt Lake pharmacist convicted of illegal drug distribution.

"1990?" questioned a sobbing Dennis Richard Robbins, 44. His wife, who was attending the hearing with her father, called out, "daddy," and left the room crying following the board's decision."Mr. Robbins, we're sorry that you're taking it so hard, but that is our decision," said board member Gary Webster.

Robbins is serving a 0-to-5-year sentence for unlawful distribution of a controlled substance and is on probation for Medicaid fraud and conducting a pattern of unlawful activity, formerly called racketeering - all charges to which he pleaded no contest last January. He is the former owner of Plaza Rexall Pharmacy, 1175 Glendale Drive.

"I'm sorry you guys," Robbins said to his wife and father-in-law in the hallway outside of the hearing.

Webster said a statement from a police officer who investigated the case said they believed Robbins's pharmacy was one of the major sources of contraband drugs for Salt Lake Valley. "That's quite a statement, and I don't believe they would exaggerate," he said.

"There were a lot of purchases of controlled substances," admitted Robbins. "I think a lot of medicine went out of that store that was unaccounted for."

Robbins told the board that the forged prescriptions were filled while he was away from the store and blamed employees and bad management. But Webster said it's hard to believe he had no idea what was going on around him given the large volume of drugs involved.

"I have no question that the proper thing has happened by sending you to prison," said board member Paul Boyden. "You took an oath as a pharmacist and betrayed the trust your profession puts in you."

Boyden added, "I'm not sure that you've truly accepted responsibility for what has happened."

Robbins told the board he was a good candidate for parole and said he was sorry.

"I was known in that community and these things did occur and I'm really sorry for that," he said. "I feel like I've hurt the people, and I don't want this on my shoulders."

"The addicts on the street are probably the ones that suffered the worst, and their families," Webster said.

Upon his release, the board said Robbins may not work in a pharmacy or any place where controlled substances are sold or stored. They also upheld court orders of $60,000 in Medicaid restitution (to be reduced to $35,000 if regular payments are met) and $5,000 in fines.