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September 20, 2007 - Miami Herald (FL)

Pain Sufferer Wins Pardon In Drug Case

By Marc Caputo

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

TALLAHASSEE -- Richard Paey, a victim in the war on drugs, was granted a full, immediate and unexpected pardon by Gov. Charlie Crist and the Cabinet Thursday morning, allowing him to get out of prison and be reunited with his family later in the day.

Paey, 49, has spent the last 3 years in prison after he was convicted on drug trafficking charges in a 1997 arrest for filling out fake prescriptions and possessing about 700 Percocet narcotic painkillers.

He was to be imprisoned for 25 years.

The catch: Everyone, including judges, acknowledged the traffic accident victim was using the pills for debilitating pain. Since his incarceration, prison doctors have hooked him up to a morphine drip, which delivers more pain medication daily than he was convicted of trafficking.

The state's parole commission recommended denying clemency for Paey, who was only seeking to have his prison sentence commuted.

But after his lawyer, wife and four children wept and pleaded for Paey's release, Crist and the Cabinet went further than Paey expected by unanimously agreeing to grant him a full pardon-meaning he'll have the right to vote and carry firearms.

They also acknowledged that the state's drug laws might be unfair.

"This is not a pleasant case," said Attorney General Bill McCollum, who noted that he supported mandatory-minimum sentences when he was in Congress.

"Our laws are very much to blame."

But so are the prosecutors in Pasco County, said Paey's wife, Linda Paey, who said she couldn't understand why they zealously pursued her husband through three trials despite the widespread acknowledgement that he was a pain victim and not a drug dealer.

"I've changed. I no longer trust the police. I don't trust the justice system," she said. "Only the media got our case right."

Crist, too, took a swipe at the prosecutors, saying the war on drugs itself isn't just to blame in cases such as this.

"If they're prosecuted appropriately, then justice will be done," he said.

"Obviously, this case cries out for a review of that process."

Contact Marc Caputo at

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