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June 24, 2007 - Tampa Tribune (FL)

Column: Disabled Man's Justice May Be Served Cold

By Daniel Ruth

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

To pass the time in prison, and Richard Paey certainly has nothing but time, the man the Pasco County Sheriff's Office tried to suggest was the Carlos Lehder of Oxycodone uses domino pieces to laboriously sculpt tiny works of art.

But if there is any fairness in this insane case of prosecutors gone bonkers, with a little bit of luck and a whole lot of justice, come Sept. 20, it's possible the last tile will drop in Richard Paey's favor.

Since May 2004, the 48-year-old Paey has been an inmate in the Florida prison system, serving a 25-year term after his conviction on seven counts of drug trafficking, possession and obtaining a controlled substance by fraud.

And it's all first-degree balderdash.

Paey's legal nightmare began in 1997 when Pasco County Sheriff's Office sleuths, vying perhaps for the Barney Fife Lifetime Achievement Award, raided the lawyer's home and discovered stockpiles of painkillers such as Percocet, Vicodin and the aforementioned Oxycodone.

A Clue?

Paey insisted the drugs were for his own personal use and had been legally obtained by prescription from his New Jersey doctor.

Indeed, had the sheriff's gumshoes looked just a pinch closer at Paey, they would have found a man in a wheelchair as a result of horrific back injuries suffered in a car accident, who was also suffering from multiple sclerosis.

Somehow those clues managed to elude the eagle-eyed Sherlock Holmes-like detectives.

In what seemed like a good idea at the time, Paey, taking the radical position that he was innocent, declined various plea offers that would have resulted in little or no jail time.

And in fact, at trial, no evidence was presented linking Paey to any sale and/or distribution of drugs.

Nor did prosecutors provide any proof Paey forged prescriptions.

Yet in a miscarriage of justice that has to qualify as the Dreyfus affair of Pasco County, Paey was still found guilty.

And for irritating the court by rejecting the plea deals, a handicapped man who is less of a threat to society than Bess Truman found himself off to the hoosegow, for all practical purposes, for the rest of his life.

Righting A Wrong

And the Paey debacle only grew more bizarre.

This year, the Second District Court of Appeals, in grudgingly upholding the technically legal conviction of the defendant, also agreed, "Mr. Paey's argument about his sentence does not fall on deaf ears, but it falls on the wrong ears," urging the Clemency Board to right the moral wrong of this case.

According to Paey's attorney, John P. Flannery II of Leesburg, Va., petitioners seeking a pardon or clemency must serve at least a third of their sentence before their cases can be heard by the board, which is made up of Gov. Charlie Crist, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, Attorney General Bill McCollum and Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson.

But a few days ago, Paey was notified by the Office of Executive Clemency that he had been granted a waiver to have his plea for mercy be heard at the board's next scheduled meeting, Sept. 20.

Flannery regarded the development as "most encouraging. Now we do what's most difficult: we wait and pray."

It's about time a chip fell in Richard Paey's favor.

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