Pubdate: Thu, 05 Sep 2002
Source: St. Petersburg Times (FL)
Section: Pasco County
Copyright: 2002 St. Petersburg Times
Author: John Chase, Palm Harbor


Editor: Last week in a west Pasco courtroom, I watched Judge Robert
Beach reluctantly order a new trial for Richard Paey, who uses a wheelchair.

Paey is a difficult man even at his best, as he was Friday -
sometimes vague and sometimes not cooperative. Is this caused by the
surgically implanted morphine pump that feeds his damaged spine? By
his multiple sclerosis and the medication he takes for that? By other
medicines? No one knows.

It's very frustrating for a judge to be unaware of whether a defendant
overmedicated intentionally to appear incompetent in court. That
frustration was evident Friday when the judge set Paey's bail at $1-
million to keep him in jail pending a new trial. Tough, but to assure
minimal grogginess in the courtroom, I can understand it.

What I cannot understand is why local law enforcement took an interest
in Paey. Why they searched for evidence of drug selling, found none,
but arrested him, anyway, after he obtained enough Percocet to exceed
Florida's statutory definition of trafficking. Never mind the spirit
of the law; prosecutors wanted 25 years, and that statute gave it to
them. Had Beach not ordered a new trial, Florida taxpayers would have
spent more than $600,000 to store Mr. Paey in prison. Our antidrug
laws cause physicians to be so fearful of official surveillance that
many of their chronic pain patients become desperate and commit
prescription fraud to get relief. It also gives so much power to the
prosecution that no one is safe. Paey's wife, Linda, can explain.

John Chase, Palm Harbor
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake