COLUMBUS, Ohio — A judge on Tuesday sentenced a woman to five years in prison for her role at a southern Ohio pill mill linked to a dozen overdose deaths, while denying a motion by the woman's mother to withdraw her guilty plea in the same case.

Denise Huffman and her daughter, Alice Huffman, each pleaded guilty last year to one count of operating Tri-State Health Care and Pain Management as a place whose primary purpose was the illegal distribution of prescription drugs.

U.S. District Court Judge Sandra Beckwith in Cincinnati sentenced Alice Huffman to 60 months in prison and ordered her to report to federal prison officials in about two months to begin her sentence.

After denying Denise Huffman's request to withdraw her guilty plea, Beckwith ordered a psychiatric evaluation. Beckwith placed Denise Huffman in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons for the purpose of conducting the evaluation, the results of which aren't expected for months.

Denise Huffman was scheduled for sentencing with her daughter, then filed the motion to withdraw her plea late Monday.

Denise Huffman was "deeply confused and felt intimidated by the proceedings and the atmosphere of urgency present in the court" when she entered the plea a year ago, her lawyer, James Rion, said in the filing in federal court in Cincinnati.

In an earlier filing, Rion told the judge Denise Huffman takes responsibility for her actions.

"Ms. Huffman clearly has had trouble with addiction in her life, and in a way she is one of the victims of her own actions," the filing said.

Rion declined comment Tuesday.

Alice Huffman has blamed the older woman for her participation in the clinic, saying in court papers she was desperate for work and unable to stand up to her mother.

They both testified earlier this year against a Chicago doctor convicted of causing the death of four clinic patients who overdosed.

Dr. Paul Volkman was convicted on those four charges, as well as eight other distribution counts that prosecutors said resulted in fatal overdoses but did not leave enough evidence to convict him of the deaths.

He faces 20 years in prison. A sentencing date hasn't been set yet.

The Drug Enforcement Administration considers southern Ohio, where Volkman distributed the pills, one of the worst places in the country for prescription painkiller abuse. Accidental drug overdoses driven by such addictions have surpassed car accidents as the leading cause of accidental death in Ohio.

In each of the four deaths, Volkman was found guilty of illegally prescribing Oxycodone, a powerful painkiller that has been blamed for overdose deaths around the country.

A 2007 indictment alleged Volkman went to work at the Huffmans' clinic in 2003. The indictment said patients came from hundreds of miles away and were charged $125 to $200 in cash for visits to see a doctor.

Prosecutors said Volkman rarely, if ever, counseled patients on alternative treatments for pain, such as physical therapy, surgery or addiction counseling. Volkman denied the allegations and said he always acted in good faith.

Denise Huffman kept guns and bats at the clinic to maintain order among patients receiving treatment, according to court papers. Her daughter knew about the weapons but did what her mother told her and may have ignored what was happening at the clinic to keep her job, Alice Huffman's attorney, Richard Smith-Monahan, said in an August court filing. She was supporting three children by herself, including a handicapped daughter.

"The dynamic of a mother-daughter relationship ought to be one of trust, guidance, and positive support, not one where the parent involves the child in criminal conduct," Smith-Monahan wrote.

A message was left with Smith-Monahan Tuesday seeking comment on the sentencing.

Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached at