The author of the popular pH Miracle book series will spend the next five months in jail, after admitting that he illegally treated patients at his luxury Valley Center ranch without any medical or scientific training.
Robert O. Young was taken into custody in a Vista courtroom Thursday morning. He had been convicted last year on two counts of practicing medicine without a license and pleaded guilty earlier this year to two additional felony counts.
The 65-year-old Young didn’t speak during the hearing, which marked the end of a three-year criminal case that highlighted his controversial theories and the pricey treatments he offered to seriously ill or dying patients, who in some cases were given intravenous fluids mixed with baking soda at $500 a pop.
He’s the author of several books including the bestselling “The pH Miracle: Balance Your Diet, Reclaim Your Health,” which was first published in 2002 and later translated into more than 18 languages. His work, and treatments at the ranch, were based on the theory that acidity in the body is the cause of disease, and that an alkaline diet is the answer.
Superior Court Judge Richard Whitney, who oversaw Young’s case, including a trial that lasted more than two months, said Thursday that while there was some benefit to Young’s work, the author — who has no post-high school degrees from accredited institutions — had oversimplified the “extremely complex fields” of microbiology and hematology
Young was arrested in January 2014 following an investigation started by the state medical board. His alkaline theories, rooted in work by an 1800s French scientist, were not technically on trial, although they were center stage during the criminal case.
Deputy District Attorney Gina Darvas called Young the “Wizard of pHraud” and painted him as a charlatan who made money peddling pseudoscience to desperate, dying people. Darvas said Young’s degrees came from a nonaccredited “diploma mill” where Young went from a bachelor’s degree to a doctorate in about eight months in 1995.
During the trial, Young’s then-attorney Paul Pfingst argued that Young was under attack because he espoused alternative beliefs. He said people sought Young’s help precisely because he was not a doctor, but rather a naturopathic practitioner.
A North County jury convicted Young in early 2016 on two counts of practicing medicine without a license, but deadlocked on several remaining changes, and Young faced retrial on those counts. Instead, Young struck a deal in April that put an end to the criminal case.
Under the deal, Young was sentenced to three years, eight months in custody, although will likely only serve half that time for good behavior. He is also being credited for spending roughly the past year under house arrest.
Aside from jail time, prosecutor Darvas insisted on another condition of his plea: Young had to make a public admission declaring that he is not microbiologist, hematologist, medical or naturopathic doctor or trained scientist. He gave those admissions when he entered his guilty plea in April.
Young’s attorney, Deputy Public Defender Wil Rumble, said his client listened carefully to everything said in court.
Among those there Thursday when Young was placed in handcuffs was Moe Felix, whose late wife Vicki — one of the named victims in the case — went to the ranch for daily treatments for her cancer several years ago. She quit the treatments and returned to her medical doctor, and lived two more years, dying in 2012.
“I came here for closure,” Felix said. “There was justice.”
Several of Young’s supporters, including former patients, attended the hearing. Afterward, they defended him and his work, and said he had been unfairly characterized in court. Supporter Brian Claypool said Young’s treatments helped one of his family members, and called the court case “a big injustice.”
“They ignored all the good he has done, all the people he has helped,” Claypool said.
In April, the Osteopathic Medical Board of California revoked the medical license of Dr.Bennie S. Johnson, a physician who worked at the Valley Center Ranch, finding that he had been negligent in the treatment of four patients in 2012 and 2013. Johnson was initially charged along with Young in the criminal case, but a judge dismissed Johnson’s charges following his preliminary hearing.
Young has had legal troubles in the past in Utah. In 1995, he was arrested on two felony charges of practicing medicine without a license. He pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor, which was dismissed 18 months later under a plea deal. He was charged again in 2001, but the case was dropped.