Pubdate: Thu, 27 Sep 2007
Source: Tampa Tribune (FL)
Copyright: 2007 The Tribune Co.
Bookmark: (Opinion)
Bookmark: (Chronic Pain)


It's normal to feel compassion for people so overcome by chronic pain
from health problems that they break laws to obtain large quantities
of the medicine they need, then, incredibly, are branded drug
traffickers and sentenced to prison for at least 25 years.

But in pardoning Richard Paey of Hudson last week, Gov. Charlie Crist
and the Florida Cabinet let their compassion trump the state's rule of

Instead of just commuting Paey's sentence - which would have been fair
considering he spent 3 1/2 years in prison for illegally obtaining
large quantities of prescription drugs he needs to make it through the
day - the state's top officials fully pardoned him, erasing the 15
charges a jury convicted him of. Even Paey and his lawyers knew a
pardon was a stretch - they didn't request one.

Crist and the Cabinet overlooked, or severely down-played, how Paey
obtained pain medication in the case - by fraud, according to the jury
- - as well as the Second District Court of Appeal's affirmation of his
convictions and sentence and the state Supreme Court's rejection of
the resulting appeal.

This was not a case of Paey being wrongly convicted based on perjury,
prosecutorial misconduct, mistaken identity or other wrongful acts.

The national focus on this case has, rightfully, been on Paey's overly
harsh sentence for a drug trafficking conviction, which state laws
unfairly allow when people possess a certain amount of controlled
substances. In Paey's case, he had more than 33 grams of oxycodone for
personal use. No evidence was given showing Paey sold the drugs
because the trafficking law doesn't require it.

In addition, his punishment of a mandatory 25-year prison sentence was
equally unjust, illustrating another flaw in minimum mandatory
sentencing laws.

The law needs to be amended. But this is the job of the Legislature,
not the state's chief executive officer and his Cabinet in their roles
as the board of clemency. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake