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.