Friday, December 08, 2006

Call Jeb Bush -- take one minute and do it now.

Today, Friday, Dec. 8, I called Florida Governor Jeb Bush asking him to immediately commute the sentence of Richard Paey.
Call 850-488-7146 in Tallahassee, FL in the Eastern time zone.
Please take one minute to call him too.
Please forward this post. Let's flood the Governor with polite and urgent telephone calls. Paey has been in prison three years already -- let's try to get him home to his wife and three children by Christmas.

I was inspired by Maia Szalavitz's outstanding column on the decision

Richard Paey was in a car wreck and suffered a devastating spinal injury in 1985 while a student at the University of Pennsylvania law school. He has struggled to control the sometimes excruciating pain ever since with high doses of powerful pain killers. After he moved to Florida in 1994, he continued to see his doctor in New Jersey. Paey last saw his doctor in December 1996. In February 1997, a Florida pharmacy tipped off the Sheriff that Paey was buying large quantities of pain killer. A deputy observed Paey fill a prescription issued by the NJ doctor. The deputy then called the doctor who first admitted and then denied writing the prescriptions. Over 34 days, Paey had seven prescriptions filled to acquire about 1400 pills. Paey never sold the pills, but kept them to relieve his suffering. As a convenience to Paey, the doctor had sent undated prescriptions to him -- a minor offense. The doctor, fearing prosecution, changed his story and denied writing the prescriptions. Paey had used the prescription blank of his New Jersey doctor. Paey was charged with drug trafficking, but even though he was under continual police surveillance, there was never any evidence that he sold any of his pills, as he has always insisted.

After turning down a plea bargain offer to attempted drug trafficking with a sentence of three years of house arrest and eight years of probation, because he knew that he was not a drug trafficker -- attempted or otherwise -- and because he feared that with a drug conviction no doctor would ever write a legal prescription for him again, Paey went to trial in 2002. Cary David first told the story in the St. Petersburg Times. He was convicted of seven counts of drug trafficking based simply on the possession, and sentenced to a mandatory 25-years in prison due to weight of the pills he possessed. In prison he is now on a morphine pump getting as much pain killer as he was using when he filled the prescriptions.

Paey's appeal was featured on CBS News 60 Minutes, January 29, 2006, Morley Safer reporting. Paey's case was featured on the New York Times op-ed page on July 19, 2005 in a column by John Tierney that was reprinted all over the country.

Paey appealed his conviction, including arguing that this sentence amounts to cruel or unusual punishment under the Florida Constitution or cruel and unusual punishment under the U.S. Constitution. The Florida Court of Appeals (Second District) rejected his appeal 2 to 1 on Dec. 6. The opinion is worth reading. The dissent, by Associate Judge James H. Seals, is outstanding. But even the majority conceded that the sentence was too long, and said that Paey's appeal properly lies with the Governor and his power of clemency, not with the court.

Paey had also been found guilty of four counts of forging a prescription, each count drawing a sentence of one year and one day, all to be served concurrently. He has served more than three years already. He should be freed!
Paey is now 48 years old, married with three children.

These accounts report on the denial of the appeal: The Tampa Tribune and the International Herald Tribune.

Richard's lawyer, John P. Flannery, II, of Leesburg, VA, has filed a petition for commutation of sentence with Governor Jeb Bush.

Please call Governor Bush and encourage him to grant the petition.
Call 850-488-7146 in Tallahassee, FL.


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