Drug Policy

Appeals Court Upholds Richard Paey's 25-Year Sentence


Yesterday Florida's 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected a challenge to the 25-year mandatory minimum sentence received by pain patient Richard Paey for "drug trafficking" that did not involve any trafficking in drugs. As the majority explained, under Florida law "a person need not sell anything to commit the 'trafficking' offense….A person may commit the offense by knowingly being in actual or constructive possession of an enumerated controlled substance in a quantity equal to or greater than a weight designated by statute"—in this case, 28 grams of the narcotic painkiller oxycodone.

The prosecution presented no evidence that Paey distributed the pills to anyone else or planned to do so. All indications were that he obtained the painkillers entirely for his own consumption, and the only real matters of dispute were 1) whether he had obtained them legitimately or through prescription fraud and 2) whether he truly needed them for pain relief, as he insisted, or had become addicted to them in the course of pain treatment, as the prosecutors claimed. But because of the drug trafficking's statute's broad reach, the appeals court concluded, Paey's conviction and sentence were legally appropriate. And although his history of chronic pain and desperate circumstances "naturally evoke sympathy for what he has endured and concern for his future welfare," the court said, his sentence is not so disproportionate that it violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of "cruel and unusual punishment" or the Florida Constitution's prohibition of "cruel or unusual punishment."

That conclusion prompted a strong dissent by Judge James H. Seals, who wrote:

With no competent proof that [Paey] intended to do anything other than put the drugs into his own body for relief from his persistent and excruciating pain, the State chose to prosecute him and treat him as a trafficker in illegal drugs. Instead of recognizing the real problem and the real behaviors that led to his real crimes and holding him appropriately accountable, the State decided to bring out the artillery designed to bring down the drug cartels….

The sentence in this case for a lone act—the mere possession of unlawfully obtained medicine for personal use—is illogical, absurd, unjust, and unconstitutional…

I suggest that it is cruel for a man with an undisputed medical need for a substantial amount of daily medication management to go to prison for twenty-five years for using self-help means to obtain and amply supply himself with the medicine he needed. I suggest it is cruel for government to treat a man whose motivation to offend sprang from urgent medical problems the same as it would treat a drug smuggler motivated to obtain personal wealth and power at the expense of the misery his enterprise brings to others. I suggest that it is unusual, illogical, and unjust that Mr. Paey could conceivably go to prison for a longer stretch for peacefully but unlawfully  purchasing 100 oxycodone pills from a pharmacist than had he robbed the pharmacist at knife point, stolen fifty oxycodone pills which he intended to sell to children waiting outside, and then stabbed the pharmacist. I suggest that it is unusual, illogical, and absurd for the prosecution, an agent of the executive branch, to abuse and misuse section 893.135 in the belief that it is doing the will of the legislature and of the people of this state. It is illogical, absurd, cruel, and unusual for the government to put Mr. Paey in prison for twenty-five years for foolishly and desperately pursuing his self-help solution to his medical management problems, and then go to prison only to find that the prison medical staff is prescribing the same or similar medication [a morphine pump] he had sought on the outside but could not legitimately obtain. That fact alone clearly proves what his intent for purchasing the drugs was. What a tragic irony. 

The majority said Paey's only recourse at this point is to seek clemency from Gov. Jeb Bush:  "Mr. Paey's argument about his sentences does not fall on deaf ears, but it falls on the wrong ears." According to A.P., Paey's attorney "immediately wrote to Bush's office about the case." A spokesman for the governor "said the office has received more than 100 letters on Paey's behalf but has not yet received any official clemency request."

State Attorney Bernie McCabe suggested Paey's real crime was not prescription fraud but his stubbornness in turning down plea bargains. "He made his own bed here as far as I'm concerned," McCabe said. "People can try to couch it some other way all they want, but that's the way it is."

The appeals court claimed "reasonable people might come to different conclusions about the wisdom of the twenty-five-year mandatory minimum sentences that the trial court was required to impose on Mr. Paey." I have to say I really don't think that's true, unless the court had in mind a definition of reasonable as ridiculously broad as the Florida legislature's definition of drug trafficking.

The appeals court's decision is here. The Pain Relief Network's information on the case is here.

Contact information for Jeb Bush:

Via Email



Phone: 850-488-7146
Fax: 850-487-0801

Mailing Address

The Capitol
400 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399

NEXT: Drug Propaganda Thursday

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  1. the law is an ass

  2. State Attorney Bernie McCabe suggested Paey’s real crime was not prescription fraud but his stubbornness in turning down plea bargains. “He made his own bed here as far as I’m concerned,” McCabe said. “People can try to couch it some other way all they want, but that’s the way it is.”

    IOW, he should suffer because he didn’t want to settle for a lighter sentence even though he didn’t do anything wrong (morally that is; legally, yes, he was “wrong” but then again most people don’t make much distinction between what’s illegal and what’s wrong; at least most of the tools who work for the Government).

    reasonable people might come to different conclusions about the wisdom of the twenty-five-year mandatory minimum sentences that the trial court was required to impose on Mr. Paey

    In my book, sending him to jail for 10 minutes would be unreasonable. 25 years, however, far exceeds the unconscionable.

    God, this country makes me sad. I can’t even muster up anger anymore because that would do no good. 80% of the populace has bought this drug war shit hook, line and sinker.

  3. this decision is immoral and so are the judges who composed the majority.

    can’t wait to find out what jeb does when he gets that clemency request.

  4. How does one read these things day in and day out and remain optimistic about this country?

    – Rick

  5. You want to really take the wind of your sails, Rick? Look around for the people who’ll defend decision. They’re out there.

  6. Let me get this straight.

    A doctor perscribes Mr. Paey a certain amount of opoids, and is threatened by the DEA with jail time if he does not perjure himself.

    A prison doctor prescribes the same dose and is not investigated.

    In the bizarro world of government officials, shouldn’t they be going after the prison doctor?

  7. Unbelievable, he should get perhaps a year or so for fraud, forgery or whatever, but 25? Had he gone in and shot the pharmist heed get less time. I never got this “intent to distribute” thing, how can they know what you intent to do.

  8. No, because being an employee of the state means the rules no longer apply.

  9. Jesus said, “The heart of the law is mercy.” I guess these judges don’t quite agree.

    No justification whatsoever for any prison time.

    Let’s all do something constructive and write letters to Jeb Bush. Can anyone post info on how to get through to his office most effectively?


    Governor Jeb Bush’s contact information
    Tel: 850/488-4441
    Fax: 850/487-0801
    Email: fl_governor@myflorida.com

    Senator Bill Nelson’s Tallahassee office
    Phone: 850-942-8415
    Fax: 850-942-8450

  11. There’s no reaction any sane person can have to this sort of abuse of power other than to express deep and visceral disapproval. So here it goes:

    Fucking sick.

    While Judge Seals dissent was quite eloquent, I am more interested in reading the majority’s defense of this moral and legal travesty. I’m debating whether to do that right now, however, because I’m worried that I’ll get so angry that I’ll be worthless and unproductive for the rest of the evening. Maybe I’ll save it for a time when I have more time to get angry about the constant injustice in this country. Of course, at the rate things are going, some SWAT team will probably break down the doors of another innocent person’s home and kill him or her by the end of the week, and this will fade into the long parade of memories of American injustice going back to forever.

  12. Disgusting! Judge Seals is a hero. I will contact Jeb but I have no hope.

  13. I wonder if Rush Limbaugh has anything to say about this.

  14. And today in Texas a woman received seven whole years for arranging the murder of her husband. Totally sensible, the law.

  15. Can Paey appeal this decision any higher (SCOTUS maybe?)?

    Also, on The Agitator, Radley said Paey was moved to a higher-security prison, farther from his family, after talking to the NYT? WTF?

  16. My spidey sense tells me that photo has been left-right reversed.

  17. Oh, you can’t possibly be so ignorant of ‘govspeak’ as to think that ‘trafficking’ means anything like the “street” definition?

    Please look back at the “organic fish” story.

  18. On a slightly different note, I am surprised that nobody has noticed that the TV show HOUSE has addressed this very issue by using Dr House’s addiction to prescription pain killers and illustrating how that problem is made worse the out of control police powers that have been brought to bear on him and his doctor friends who have prescribed and over prescribed. House would not be much of a show without the dialogue. The plotlines are thin and overwrought, but man the dialogue is just, well, snappy.

  19. Regardless of how Jeb Bush feels about this case, he’s unlikely to grant clemency. If he did, the next time he ran for political office, he’d have to face negative ads along the lines of; “Jeb Bush wants you to think he’s tough on crime, but he let convicted drug kingpin Richard Paey off” etc. Only a very brave politican (or one on the brink of retirement) would want to be seen as “soft on crime”.

  20. Ironically enough I’m guessing (based on the “don’t ask us” majority response) that the decision was largely based on a “conservative” (libertarian?) judicial mindset. That is the mindset that:
    1. legislature is elected by the people and therefore if they define clearly define a law to have a certain meaning then who are the judiciary to overrule what the people want?
    2. the supreme court’s proportionality test should be construed narrowly to give the states their proper rights.

    Most libertarians would be against “activist judges” and expanding SCOTUS’s power. Still there are times when a judge needs to stand up and say “this isn’t about power, it’s about not being retarded.”

  21. remind me to preview in the future…

  22. How does one man assert his power over another… By making him suffer. Obedience is not enough. Unless he is suffering, how can you be sure that he is obeying your will and not his own? Power is in inflicting pain and humiliation…. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — for ever.

  23. The prosecutor is absurd. Paey should go to jail because he did not take my deal and justify my (the prosecutors) arugment. Just absurd. The prosecutor deserves to be fired and disbarred for his sheer incompetence and absurdity.

  24. http://www.theagitator.com/archives/026271.php

    February 14, 2006 Richard Paey vs. SWAT

    I don’t know why, but it never occured to me that Richard Paey might have been apprehended by a SWAT team when officials in Florida decided to nail him for daring to relieve his own pain. It should have, given that they’re often deployed to bust up convalescent centers where sick people are treated with marijuana.

    So I spoke with Linda Paey, his wife. Sure enough. Linda says a full-on SWAT team stormed the Paey’s home the night they came for Richard. They kicked open the door, and stormed the house with assault weapons, armor, and black ski masks. They did have the courtesy to dispense with the concussion grenade.

    Lest you’ve forgotten, Richard Paey is a paraplegic. He sits in a wheelchair, and can’t use his legs. He suffers from mutliple sclerosis and debilitating back pain caused by a car accident and a botched spinal surgery. Investigators were aware of all of this.

    Linda Paey is an optometrist. They have two school-aged children. No one in the family has a criminal record, nor any history of violence.

    Any military fetishists out there want to explain why the SWAT team was necessary in this one?

    Posted by Radley Balko on February 14, 2006

  25. The Plea Bargain bullshit is the biggest scam in the “justice” system. Most people ( and I can’t blame them)feel forced into the deal even if innocent, because a couple years in prison is bad, but the don want to risk 25-life for fucking Tylenol. I hope the States Attorney and all these other assholes die slow painful deaths.

  26. State Attorney Bernie McCabe suggested Paey’s real crime was not prescription fraud but his stubbornness in turning down plea bargains.

    Besides being ridiculously and callously unfair, this is certainly a tacit admission as to the lack of justification for the original conviction!

    And it follows that the law upon which the conviction is based is lacking reason as well.

  27. Injustices like this happen everyday in thius country and will continue until our war on some drugs continues.

  28. I have just sent my email to Jeb requesting clemency for Mr. Paey. I hope many others will join in.

    Now, let’s work on those misguided souls who’ve bought into the ‘War on Drugs’ and press for common sense changes in the laws that continue to deprive so many Americans of their freedom.

  29. Interestingly, Jeb Bush’s daughter was also arrested for prescription drug fraud a couple of years ago. I don’t think she got a 25 year sentence though.

  30. What Zach said.

  31. I said:

    “And it follows that the law upon which the conviction is based is lacking reason as well.”

    I should clarify. I doesn’t always follow that a conviction sans justification implies a bad law. Rather, given the particulars of this case, the law that was found to be broken is revealed to lack justification.

  32. At first I was pissed by these comments (I’m a prosecutor) until I read the decision and realized I would have charged the guy with prescription fraud, asked for probation, and that would have been that.

    It’s a shitty deal, that’s for sure. I wasn’t sold on the dissent until he pointed out how infuriating “loopholes” are to us. Well, its no different when we do it.

  33. I agree with lovecat that we should be writing letters and making noise, but I’m not sure what good an email from a Californian would do.

    Would it make more sense to get the issue in the news in Florida, and hopefully letting the Floridians deal with it? Maybe a mass e-mail/letter campaign to some of the bigger news outlets?

  34. And today in Texas a woman received seven whole years for arranging the murder of her husband.

    That shouldn’t surprise you; women typically receive comparatively lenient sentences for murder. A Justice Department study of domestic homicides in 1988 found that 94 percent of men who were convicted of (or pled guilty to) killing their spouses received prison sentences, but only 81 percent of the women did. Further, when there had been no provocation (prior assaults or threats), the average prison sentence was seven years for killer wives and 17 years for killer husbands.

  35. I doesn’t always follow that a conviction sans justification implies a bad law. Rather, given the particulars of this case, the law that was found to be broken is revealed to lack justification. Or to put it another way, the justification of a law that is broken is a broken justification, but would an intact justification make any difference if the law is broken? Porbably not. On the other hand even though a broken law is an imperfect law (all law is), the justification can be whole if it results in a greater good than the broken law would have provided. That is, the justification must be considered apart from the wholeness or brokeness of the law inasmuch as all law depends on an interpretation (i.e. justification) for its ultimate implementation. Jaywalking laws are a case in pint.

  36. I’ve never understood what plea bargaining gets me, as a citizen. They basically round up people and put them in jail for a while and then tell them that they can confess and go free, or if they maintain their innocence, more jail.

    So they generally get their confessions.

    But what’s the point of just taking them in, getting a confession, and letting them go? As a citizen I don’t feel more protected just because there’s a big stack of “convictions” in some office somewhere.

  37. Trollumination

    Your chances of being a victim of a crime are miniscule no matter what “they” do, so relax. So-called crime is part of a market economy. It pays. Eliminate crime, and the whole economy goes belly up.

  38. What Zach said doesn’t make any sense. Until our war on drugs continues? What the fuck does that mean?

  39. Phil,

    Zach corrected his 12:37am comment at 12:38am so that it said what he obviously meant.

  40. Phil:

    Or to put it another way, the justification of a law that is broken is a broken justification,

    No, that’s not what I meant-poor choice of words on my part. My intended meaning should be clear if “violated” is substituted for “broken”.

  41. TWC: That was my first thought when reading this article – “Hey, it’s like House!” Ironically, I’m addicted to the show…

    Hmmm, maybe a letter-writing campaign to Hugh Laurie or Bryan Singer might be more effective.

  42. jasno, I’m also from California, so when I wrote Florida Governor Bush, I mentioned that if might ever be interested in my vote for President, he’d better grant clemency to Richard Paey now.

  43. Bernie McCabe is an idiot. It’s not a crime to turn down plea bargains. In fact, it’s admirable to turn down plea bargains when you’re innocent, it’s courageous when you’re likely to get the shaft for doing so. Basically McCabe is chiding him for having courage, for having integrity. McCabe is an asshole. Him and all those judges that went along with this extreme cruelty and stupidity should be tortured and killed. THAT would be justice.



  45. The prosecutor gave Mr. Paey ample chance to take just a slap on the wrist. His hands were tied after Mr. Paey decided to take it to a jury.

  46. “McCabe is an asshole. Him and all those judges that went along with this extreme cruelty and stupidity should be tortured and killed.”

    Watch what you say, man. Cavanaugh would ban you for something like that. I don’t know about the new person.

    In any case, I can’t say I disagree too much.

    On an side note, nobody respond to Dan T. or anyone named Dan T. ever. Doesn’t matter what he says, right or wrong (although seemingly unvariably wrong…) don’t feed the bastard. If he does actually believe what he says he’s beyond any hope.

  47. What would it take to make this a major news story?

    Do you think a full page ad in the Miami Herald, Palm Beach Post, etc., etc., could get the powerful people to sit up, take note, and maybe excercise some mercy over this Christmas period?

    Or is it just too far gone?

    I can’t believe I’m discussing groveling strategies. In America.

  48. I love the state prosecutor’s rationalization: I gave him the chance to plea bargain, so it’s his fault. Awesome. I’m going to give my neighbor the chance to give me his flat screen TV. It’s his fault if I have to slit his throat when he refuses.

    For the prosecutors out there, the proper phrase here is “prosecutorial discretion.” In a world of limited resources, you can’t pursue absolutely every potential case. Focus on the meaningful ones, and don’t waste our tax dollars on imprisoning paraplegics taking pain killers. And no, you’re not relieved of moral responsibility because you’re “just doing your job.”

  49. “Basically McCabe is chiding him for having courage, for having integrity.”

    well said, Yong Kim. Courage and integrity are two values that seem to be missing from many people, when you take a broad view of society.

    The plea bargain issue makes me think of Ron Bailey’s article about reputation and punishment being effective at keeping “cheaters” in line with the rest of society. In a way, Paey is being treated like a cheater, and the prosecutors are using their reputation and the threat of state punishment to keep him in line (although perhaps I am misunderstanding the study about which Bailey is writing – psychology/sociology are two subjects in which I cannot engage discourse).

    What happens when the persons charged with keeping cheaters in line using the combined reputation/punishment scheme are actually doing it for the wrong or for misguided reasons? Who oversees the overseers?

  50. “It’s not a crime to turn down plea bargains.”

    Technically, not; the real crime here, in the prosecutorial view, is “failure to submit.”

    It’s difficult to see any substantive difference between this prosecutor’s demand that Paey cofess his sins and seek absolution from the State, and Torquemada torturing heretics in God’s name.

  51. The real problem in this is our obsession with laws at the expense of our judgment and morality. Yes we are a national of laws not men, but there is always a place for individual judgment, reason and morality in the workings of the law. It is our lack of faith in individual judgment that produced these ridiculous minimum mandatorys to begin with. The attitude of the prosecutor in this case is all too typical of today. His job is not to mindlessly enforce the law. His job is to due justice within the confines of the law. There is a difference. Just because a crime has been committed doesn’t mean that it should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. A prosecutor has an moral obligation to look at the probable results of bringing a particular case and weighing those results with a sense of justice. The fact is this guy getting 25 years is not justice. Considering the minimum mandatory sentences in this case, the prosecutor should have brought lesser charges regardless of his plea. This “he never pled guilty like I told him to” bullshit is nothing juvenile, playground justice. Prosecutors are supposed to represent the people and do justice not just mindless uphold the law. He can rationalize it all he wants, but the prosecutor who brought these charges is immoral and unfit for responsibility.

    Even after all of that, where the hell is the governor? Pardon powers are meant to be used to solve cases of injustice. Unfortunately, most chief execs do not have the balls to actually use their pardon power, unless of course they are just selling them to rich cronies like Clinton.

  52. On a slightly different note, I am surprised that nobody has noticed that the TV show HOUSE has addressed this very issue …

    I’ve been watching HOUSE and I wondered if they got the idea from this case or similar cases. It should be interesting to see how they present it, and I’m hoping they make the cops and presecutors look like asses.

  53. And Jeb Bush is the “smarter Brother”? I guesss he is not in charge.

  54. Judge Seals for President!

  55. OmIgod, I am literally weeping when I write this. The U.S. is done as a viable society. That was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. I’ll buy more guns and ammo. The Republications and Democrats are clueless. I’ll bet this gets covered on page 9 in USA Today (America’s High School Newspaper).

  56. Hvae you contributed to the flood at Jeb Bush’s E-mail account? If not, why not?

  57. If there is a god, Bernie McCabe will, at some point in his life, become a quadraplegic subject to constant, excruciating pain.

  58. It’s not clear to me whether he’d’ve been better off with the plea bargain even now. IIRC (or maybe I’m just guessing), probation would’ve had to include staying off narcotics, which would’ve been unbearable. At least in prison he gets his morphine pump. And the prison doctors aren’t about to be punished for giving it, because everybody recognizes there’s no chance of personal gain by a doctor working for the prison system regardless of what treatment the patient gets.

  59. Karma would lead to his not only being in constant, excruciating pain that he won’t be able to legally obtain drugs to treat, but that then the SWAT team will kill his dogs and cripple his children. Would a dog be willing to live with him? Probably not.

    Sorry, seem to have run out of kindness to strangers today. Feeling better already. Now, Jeb’s address was back up there somewhere ….

  60. I hope that voters in the appropriate districts take note and vote against retention of these judges in the next election.

    Except Judge Seals of course. I would most definitely go against my usual policy and vote for his retention.

  61. To paraphrase Richard Pryor… It’s not a justice system, it’s just a system. Law is not what is just, it’s what the people will stand for. And when the people won’t stand for it anymore it will get changed. Come on, many of those people in power are in power because they get off on it, not because they want to guide and help their fellow man. No they want to demonstrate their authority. And should you defy their authority they will step on your face with the power of the state behind them and revel in it. My apologies to you good people in power who work for the benefit of the public but I’m sure you know exactly what I mean.

  62. Bernie McCabe is an idiot. It’s not a crime to turn down plea bargains. In fact, it’s admirable to turn down plea bargains when you’re innocent, it’s courageous when you’re likely to get the shaft for doing so. Basically McCabe is chiding him for having courage, for having integrity. McCabe is an asshole. Him and all those judges that went along with this extreme cruelty and stupidity should be tortured and killed. THAT would be justice.

    More than a few cops and prosecutors would consider that statement to be a threat, Yong Kim. (Just imagine what the Secret Service would do if you said it about GWB.) I hope you’re thinking now about what you’re going to do when the SWAT team comes for you.

  63. Less of a threat than “Take this deal to plead to the misdeameanor or I’ll charge you with a first degree felony with a 20 year minimum!”?

    Oh, that’s right, prosecutors can’t threaten people in plea negotiations.

    Sucks to be innocent these days, sometimes. Confucius says somewhere in the Analects something to the effect that if the laws are bad, it is better to be thought a criminal.

  64. Seamus,

    How nice of you to be so concerned about my well-being. I’m sure it was your kindness that prompted those words, and not because you’re implying some sort of threat that I’ll be following Paey’s fate soon with the SWAT team at my door.

    But if they do come, so be it. You can put a bullet through my head and that will not intimidate me in the least. I will be dead, yes, but I’d still stand by my judgment that those who bring such extreme cruelty and stupidity to others deserve to be tortured and killed. To clarify, no, it is not a threat that I’ll carry out such executions. These people don’t have to be afraid that I’d do such a thing. I’m only saying that they DESERVE it. But if these words are taken as a threat and they imprison me or kill me, then so be it. I will not change my judgment or refrain from expressing my view. The site administrator can ban me from expressing my view on this site, that’s his right and I have no problem with that.

  65. Dumb and misguided. Comments about killing prosecutors won’t win anyone (i.e. the vast majority of Americans who do support the war on drugs) over to your side. C’mon people, let’s stick to the issue at hand.

    Funny story: I was actually thinking about this thread when a case came into today for charging. The cops had arrested a probationer for being in possession of a firearm. Nothing wrong with that: possession of a firearm by a felon is a crime. The only problem was, this “firearm” was a pellet gun. I told the screening attorney not to charge it. Now, TECHNICALLY, it fit under the statute, but I knew that wasn’t what the legislature had in mind. And I guess that’s where the prosecutor’s role is important: any statute will capture a lot of conduct that wasn’t intended by the legislature; it’s the prosecutor’s job to screen out the close, the inapplicable, and the absurd. Charging someone with possession a pellet gun as a “firearm” struck me as an absurdity.

    Somehow, this process broke down with the prosecutor in Florida. I don’t know what the backstory was, but something must have compelled him towards the trafficking charge. Be damned if I know what it was.

  66. Oh, and one more thing: The defendant in this case is not “innocent.” I wish you guys would stop saying that. He was overcharged and what happened to him was an injustice, but he ain’t innocent. Keep in mind that he fraudulently amassed enough pain medication in 34 days to get himself charged with trafficking. Don’t lose your wits just because the Florida prosecutor lost his.

  67. We’re inclined to think he’s innocent because we understand that the numeric value of the weight of drugs — especially when one drug is measured as another — are not always a good way of determining intent to traffic in them.

    Personally, I’m inclined to think that legislators and prosecutors who make such charges — that the accused could never need the quantity of drugs for medicinal use — should be asked for their medical license, and face trial for either improper practice (since they have not even examined the patient) or practice without a license.

  68. Chris, he’s innocent enough as far as I’m concerned. I couldn’t possibly care less about his fraudulent prescription. What is happening to him is an outrage.

    The process breaks down because the law gives prosecutors so much power. It is inevitable. When you spend every working day dispatching people to Hell, I would imagine that 10 or 15 year sentences stop seeming like such a big deal. But by the law of averages, a few prosecutors will start to view 25 year sentences as not such a big deal.

    You know, you often hear law students say goofy things, like they chose the legal profession because they love the law so much. Personally, I can’t see anything lovable about it at all. The law is indeed an ass.

    And if the public thinks all this is fine, well then the public is an ass, too. 😉

  69. Trust me Paul: if I ever get to the point where a 25-year sentence seems run-of-the-mill, then it’s time to find a new job.

    But I see your point.

  70. Chris, the difference between you and me is that you’re playing that political game or the “win people to my side” game and I’m not. And I suppose whether people will approve or like if you were to say such and such enters your “equation” whether you should say such things. Discussion is like a calculation to you, like the political strategists who advise their candidates on what to say, what to avoid to even discuss, etc. for the purpose of winning votes and getting people on your side. And I suppose that if you thought that was the game I was playing also, what I say about these people deserving death etc. isn’t “prudent.” “Dumb and misguided” if you want to be blunt about it. Well, let me be blunt also and make this perfectly clear for you. I DON’T PLAY THIS POLITICAL GAME AND I DON’T GIVE A FUCK WHETHER I “WIN” ANYONE TO MY SIDE. Got that? Is that clear enough? I care about the truth and being honest, above all, in such discussions. And the truth is that these assholes who commit such extreme cruelty DO deserve death and torture. Too bad you don’t like to hear that. Too bad you don’t think this is wise to say. Too bad you think this is not what people want to hear.

    I AM sticking to the issue at hand. Expressing my moral outrage in such strong terms IS part of sticking to the issue at hand. Anyone who doesn’t get or understand this moral outrage does NOT understand the issue at hand. The issue is not just about prosecutorial cluelessness or incompetence or the impracticality of the drug laws. Forget the laws for a moment. There is a moral issue here as well. If you believe in morality at all, this is a clear and extreme case of immorality and cruelty. A paraplagic suffering from great pain from botched spinal surgery who was desperately trying to relieve that pain by getting and using those drugs, not to sell, but simply to make his life somewhat more bearable is punished for 25 years in prison. None of these facts were in dispute. The prosecutor knew what those drugs were for, but the technicality in the law about possessing certain amount of drugs can be considered as “drug trafficking” allowed him to throw the book at him and he did so (since you ask why) because he was outraged that Paey would not confess to being an “addict” (which he isn’t) and would not take any plea bargains because he IS innocent of the charge of having intent to sell drugs (regardless of that technicality). Mad that he’s not getting his way and mad at Paey’s courage and integrity and refusal to compromise because of his innocence, he abused his power, threw the book at him, and got the conviction on a stupid technicality. I don’t care what you think about the laws here. As far as morality goes, this is as clear a case of immorality and extreme cruelty as any. McCabe DESERVES to be tortured and killed for this grave moral transgression. Maybe there’s a place for mercy even in moral (not legal) justice, but if so I’d leave that to Paey as he’s the one who’s been so gravely wronged. At any rate, I’m not saying that *I* would kill him or that anyone else should. I’m only saying this is what he deserves morally given what he did. And I’m not saying this for shock value; any less forceful expression would not do justice to the moral outrage I feel. If you disagree with my moral judgment or my moral outrage, you’re welcome to do so and argue why I’m incorrect, but don’t tell me that I shouldn’t make such a judgment or that you won’t win people to libertarian cause (or whatever cause you’re arguing this for) because I DON’T CARE about whatever damn cause you’re arguing this for.

    OK, I feel a little better now after today’s soapbox, though still pissed as hell about Paey story.

  71. Chris,

    We come here to vent, and it would be helpful if you provided a more inflexible wall for us to push against. 🙂

    I’m glad you see my point about long sentences. Politicians have gotten used to them, too, and you almost never hear a politician suggesting that we shorten sentences in the law. We seem to have moved to the point where a 10 year sentence might be viewed as “tough, but not terrible” and we are mostly only surprised by extremely long ones.

    But a 10 year sentence is a life ruining experience. I’m 40 years old. If I went to jail for 10 years, I would emerge old, broke, and unfit for almost any worthwhile employment. I’m surprised more people don’t simply kill themselves when faced with such horrible sentence. I’d certainly consider it. It’s like screw it! You guys win. I’ll see you on the other side.

    But such terms seem to be handed out like candy. We’ve got 2.2 million people incarcerated in the U.S.. Only China and Russia have similar numbers. By comparison, Canada has something like 20-30 thousand prisoners, and I read recently that the UK was wringing its collective hands about reaching the 100 thousand mark.

    2.2 million! Another 5 million or so on probation or parole. Swat teams kicking down people’s doors, cruel sentences…doesn’t something seem really wrong with all this?

  72. Paul: thanks for your persuasive and well-reasoned comments. I also noted the fact that nowhere in your post does it appear you want me dead. I appreciate that.

    Yong Kim: How’s the manifesto coming? You got enough firewood? Winter is long and cold up there in the mountains, and I don’t want you to have to come back to town before the 1st draft is finished.

  73. Chris, you’re taking this pretty personal aren’t you? Are you, by any chance, Bernie McCabe or one of those judges that went along with this extreme cruelty? No? Then I don’t wish you dead either. Or is there something else you did equally bad that you feel you have to be defensive about my moral condemnation of McCabe? If not, why the sarcasm and personal attacks? Pretty lame, if you ask me, insinuating that my post is too long and too emotional. If you have any real, substantive criticism, let’s hear it. If you just want to engage in a flame war, just save both of us the wasted time and get lost.

  74. YK, you know I’m not either one of those guys, since if you read what I said, you know I disagreed with the decision of the prosecutor to file a trafficking charge. And no, I don’t have anything to atone for. If anything, I tend to be overly cautious and deferential to defendants in my charging decisions (which doesn’t always sit well with my boss) because I believe that when a person holds an office of public trust, fairness must be the standard by which all of his conduct is judged. Fairness means I consider the well-being of the defendant as well as that of the victims and (to a lesser degree) the wishes of law enforcement.

    I’ll admit I was having a little fun at your expense, and I apologize for that. It was somewhat inappropriate. I don’t object to the content of what you wrote; I object to the tone. I know you don’t care and aren’t trying to win any friends, and that’s fine. On the substantive points, I agree with you. But the frenzied writing diminishes the persuasiveness of your position. When you say McCabe, et. al, should be killed, I stop listening.

  75. Has anyone out there actually written Jeb Bush about the Paey case? Have you gotten a reply? Does Jeb Bush have the power to commute Paey’s sentence. I have been told that Jeb some time ago said he would commute. Have any legislators been contacted?

  76. The next to the last sentence should have the word “not”.

  77. I have never before sent my government a letter requesting anything from them, that is until I read through this case. Obsurd. If Jeb listens to no one else I hope he listens to my cries for clemency.

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