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August 10, 2007 - St. Petersburg Times (FL)

Clemency Sought For Man Serving 25 Years

He Was Convicted Of Illegally Obtaining Medicine To Fight Constant Pain

By Jennifer Liberto and Jamal Thalji, Times Staff Writers

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

TALLAHASSEE - The family and attorney of Richard Paey, the Pasco County man serving 25 years for illegally obtaining pain medication, pleaded his case Thursday.

Basically, they asked for the chance to plead his case again.

But next time they hope to do so before the governor and the full Florida Parole Commission, which has the power to grant Paey clemency, or commute his long prison sentence.

Paey's attorney, John Flannery II of Virginia, answered questions Thursday posed by a panel of staffers who represent different members of the Florida Parole Commission.

They will consider recommending that the commission grant Paey an exception to state rules that prohibit inmates from seeking clemency before serving a third of their sentence. Paey has served only about three years of his 25-year sentence.

"His pain is incomprehensible," Flannery said. "He didn't ever take these painkillers to get high. He is not addicted to a medication."

Flannery hammered on that point, that his client is not addicted, and that Paey never sold, distributed or received money for any drugs.

The lawyer also pointed out that Paey is now given far more painkillers in prison than he was convicted of possessing.

"That confirms he used these medications for pain," Flannery said.

Paey was arrested by Pasco deputies and federal agents in 1997 after he bought 1,200 painkillers with fake prescriptions.

The 48-year-old Hudson father of three has multiple sclerosis and suffered chronic pain since a 1985 car accident and failed surgeries.

He had turned down a lighter sentence before his trial, because he doesn't think he did anything wrong. Despite his stand on principle, however, he ended up facing the maximum sentence. Now he uses a wheelchair in prison.

Paey has garnered plenty of sympathy since his 2004 sentencing, from those who prosecuted him, the jurors who convicted him, the judge who sentenced him and even the appellate judges who denied his appeal.

But none of them could help Paey. Clemency represents his last real shot at freedom.

Rob Wheeler, who represented the governor's office in the hearing, asked who prescribed Paey's drugs in New Jersey and whether Paey was able to continue getting his medications prescribed by Florida doctors, once his family moved here.

His wife, Linda Paey, said most Florida doctors wouldn't agree to treat her husband once they heard how extensive his injuries were. One of his teen daughters started crying softly during the hearing.

If the waiver isn't granted by Sept. 7, Flannery said, then Paey's clemency request is "effectively denied." If the waiver is granted, Paey's case could be heard by the full board in September or December.

Flannery said the commission seemed well-informed about Paey's case. The attorney and Paey's family left the hearing encouraged.

"We're obviously hopeful," Flannery said. "But the one thing I've learned after 30 years of practice is that you just can't tell what a deliberative body is going to do until they do it."

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