Drug Policy

More Good News for Richard Paey

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Richard Paey's wife, Linda, reports that he has been granted a waiver from the usual rule that a prisoner can seek clemency only after serving a third of his sentence. Paey, a Florida resident who was convicted of "drug trafficking" based entirely on opioids he obtained from pharmacies to treat his severe chronic pain (and who is now receiving pain relief via a state-approved morphine pump), has served three and a half years of a 25-year mandatory minimum sentence. As a result of the nationwide publicity attracted by this extraordinary injustice, consideration of his clemency petition has been expedited, and a hearing is scheduled for September 20. The Pain Relief Network has more on Paey's case here.

In a letter I received the other day, Paey calls attention to what his attorney, in a memorandum (PDF) supporting the clemency petition, calls "a spectacular rhetorical pirouette": At Paey's trial, the prosecution argued that even if his out-of state doctor had approved all of the prescriptions (which the doctor, who could have faced jail time himself, denied), Paey was still guilty of filling prescriptions the government retroactively deemed invalid. Under Florida law, he was therefore guilty of drug trafficking.

In the case of Mark O'Hara, as Radley Balko noted earlier this month, Florida prosecutors took this logic a step further. O'Hara received a 25-year sentence for possessing 58 Vicodin pills, even though he had a valid prescription. His conviction was overturned, but prosecutors plan to try him again.

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  1. Good news in this case. But the underlying WOD perversions of justice are still SOP. Even if vigilant advocates are able to publicize every such miscarriage, the public will soon tire of the issue. I wouldn’t expect any grass root demand for reform, just jaded apathy.

  2. the public will soon tire of the issue

    not to mention the Hit & Run crowd, as well…

  3. Maybe I just have a bizarre worldview and cannot understand the simple things. But my mind boggles at the idea that prosecutors would latch onto silly things like this.

    58 Vicodin pills, with a prescription? So what?!?!?! If he broke some picayune regulations limiting a bottle to only 54, then write him a damned fine. But 25 years is beyond the pale. There has to be more than this to the story. Did he spit on some cops mom? Shag the D.A.s daughter? Outbid a city services proposal against the mayor’s cousin?

  4. brandybuck,

    I believe his crime was not pleading guilty.

  5. Yeah. If you PLEAD to the lesser charge – even though you didn’t do a damn thing wrong – you get off. If you don’t, you might wish you’d just shagged the DA’s daughter.

  6. Lunchstealer’s got it right. Paey angered the prosecutor by not taking the plea offer. The blow-by-blow of exactly how that happened is too long to tell here and, if I told it, most people would think I was exaggerating.

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