RICHARD PAEY AND MANDATORY SENTENCING. Mark Antokas

07/08/04

INTRO: Mandatory sentencing has been around since before the Reagan years and has, for judges and defense attorneys alike, been a thorn in the side. In most cases, when faced with a harsh mandatory sentence, plea barganing is the way to go, whether you are guilty or not. One case which was not plea bargained out was that of Richard Paey

who was sentenced to 25 years for possession of percocet, which contains the opiate Oxycontin. From Tampa, FSRN's Mark Antokas

has more.

SCRIPT:Richard Paey, a father of three, suffering from Multiple Sclerosis and a botched 1983 back surgery, sits in a wheelchair in a Florida prison, a victim of this nation's draconian drug laws and mandatory minimum sentencing. The sentencing reform act was passed by congress in 1984. Paey was offered a plea deal which would have placed him under house arrest and probation but he refused it saying, that he was only medicating his pain and had done nothing wrong. His New Jersey doctor Stephen Nurkewicz was sending him signed undated prescriptions which he later denied in court when he found out that he was under investigation himself. Paey was convicted of nineteen counts of drug trafficing and the judge had no option other than to give him 25years, the minimum prescribed by the Florida legislature. Richard Paey. Roll Tape: "They say that my doctor was put into a terrible position. He could incriminate hmself, or he could incriminat me and that was his choice. He had no other choices. Police should not be making decisions how much and what medications any patient should take. it is a decision between the doctor and the patient." 0 minutes, 24 seconds

Bob Attridge, Richard Paey's attorney spoke after Paey's sentencing saying that 25 years for medicating pain was cruel and unusual punishment. Roll Tape: " If the pill weighs .7 of a gram and you have 40 pills your up to a 25 yr mandatory minimum sentence, and as I told the court, it amounts to cruel and unusual punishment" 0 minutes, 14 seconds.

Recently, the supreme Court in Blakeley vs Washington ruled that State mandatory minimums are unconstitutional. But Bob Dillenger, Pinellas-Pasco county Public Defender says that mandatory minimums are legislative sentencing and that judges should be allowed to do their job. Roll Tape: "The problem with mandatory minimums isthat itr takes discression away from the judges. The legislature complains that the judges intrude into the legislature....the problem is the legislature intrudes into the courts. Because mandatory minimums ios legislative sentencing. Judges are suposed to sentence, not legislators." QUESTION: "Have you been following the Paey case?" ANSWER: "Yes I have" QUESTION: "And what did you think about the 25 years that Richard got?" ANSWER: "The legislature beleives the way to get re-elected is to be tough on crime, and these mandatory minimums, they keep adding more and more, our beleif is that they should be getting rid of mandatory minimums and let judges do what they were elected to do, and that's sentence." 0 minutes, 45 seconds

William Stuntz is a professor at Harvard school of law. Stuntz says that the supreme court decision re-shuffles the deck in a way that prosecuters will not be happy with. Roll Tape: "The problem here is this: Federal prosecuters are holding all the cards when they're dealing with criminal defendants. What "Blakeley" did was re-shuffle the cards....and we realy dont know who has the cards right now...and we really dont know what rules are going to apply. theres just a lot of uncertainty right now" 0 minutes, 24 seconds.

ROLL TAPE: "I didnt get sentenced to prison, I got sentenced to hell." 0 minutes, 4 seconds Richard Paey, in the zephyrhills correctional facility, sits in a wheelchair, a morphine pump medicating his pain, unable to do the most simplest of outdoor activities. Roll Tape: "You have a sense of despair, of isolation, and I think most people like myself, you tend to feel hope slipping away. Ummm, your day is surounded by eating. Thats the only change of activity. (pause) You eat breakfast....then you go back to bed, (pause) you eat lunch....you go back to bed. (pause) You eat dinner.....you go back to bed. QUESTION: (softly) "Don you miss your family Richard?" ANSWER:" Oh, I miss them terribly. Thats the hardest part of prison life, is the seperation." 0 minutes, 35 seconds

SOCK OUT: Last weeks Supreme Court decision would make it more difficult to sentence unfairly cases like Paey's. Defendants could expect that judges could use more discression in sentencing. In Federal and State Courts now, a judge holds a sentencing hearing, and sentences using Federal Guidelines, rules which can be harsh. For Free Speach Radio, from WMNF in Tampa, this is Mark Antokas.

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