UTHSC professor’s attorney on drug charges: ‘This is not a Breaking Bad situation’

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — We’re digging deeper into the history of a pharmacy professor who is facing drug charges.

Dr. Georgi Petkov is currently on leave from his position with the College of Pharmacy at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis. Petkov was arrested at a Parkway Village home last month where investigators say they found a stash of drugs including cocaine, marijuana and crack cocaine.

We looked into his history of the tenured professor and his attorney also spoke with us about the charges.

Professor Petkov might be internationally known for his research, but his attorney says his recent arrest shows the classic intersection of mental health and drug abuse issues in the criminal justice system.

“This is not a Breaking Bad situation,” his attorney Blake Ballin said.

Petkov’s face appeared injured in a mug shot. Police say they had to use force to arrest him after he refused to listen while officers raided a Parkway Village home last month.

The professor was one of nine people arrested in the raid. Inside the professor’s house, investigators say they found crack cocaine, cocaine, marijuana, a gun, scales and plastic bags. 

Parked outside the home in Petkov’s SUV, detectives also say they discovered three syringes and a crack pipe.

Ballin said the professor had nothing to do with any making or selling of the drugs. 

“There is nothing more to this than what appears on the surface. Someone who is a drug user, who was in a place to purchase drugs at a time when the police were looking for somebody else. He was not the target of the search warrant,” said Ballin.

Dr. Petkov has been with UTHSC since the summer of 2017. But records we obtained through an open records request show he’s been working and researching pharmaceuticals for decades.

We examined his more than 140-page personnel file. It includes a 2017 letter from the UTHSC Chancellor to the university’s board of trustee’s executive and compensation committee.

The letter requested his expedited tenure in order to work at the university. At the time, Petkov was a tenured professor at the University of South Carolina.

The letter described Petkov as a “highly accomplished candidate.”

The letter says he has dozens of peer reviewed publications, has a track record of obtaining millions of dollars for funding research and is an internationally known scientist. It also says he is an exciting addition to UTHSC.

In another letter vouching for his tenure another faculty member said he was once named professor of the year for the College of Pharmacy at the University of South Carolina.  As for the millions of dollars in funding he secured for research, those included some big name companies, including Pfizer which is listed as part of his research surrounding the bladder. 

In his offer letter to the public university, Dr. Petkov was offered a total salary of $230,000 plus fringe benefits. 

Accomplishments aside, Ballin says the professor’s recent arrest shows an issue that shouldn’t be handled by serving time. 

“Dr. Petkov has an illness and he’s getting help for that. You know our community is riddled with this illness, with this disease and certainly there are times when the criminal justice system needs to get involved for people who are selling and distributing these drugs,” said Ballin.

Ballin even spoke about Dr. Petkov’s professional life.

“You certainly don’t want anyone to be under the influence when they’re doing their job. But I am not aware of any issues that took place at his job. I am not aware that his professional life was suffering in any way,” said Ballin. “I think he like many other before him will get back on track and will continue to be a successful doctor.” 

Ballin hopes the charges against his client are dismissed. Petkov is due in court at the end of June.

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