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Ex-Jabil worker's defense: Paxil made me do it

The man who pled guilty to stealing $1.8-million says the antidepressant made him manic.

By SCOTT BARANCIK
Published November 18, 2006


Patrick Henry Stewart, a mid level finance professional who stole $1.8-million from ex-employer Jabil Circuit and will be sentenced for wire fraud next week, is waging a last-minute bid to avoid prison time.

His angle? The Paxil made me do it.

Stewart, 42, pled guilty this fall to writing more than 100 company checks to himself and his creditors. In exchange for his cooperation, federal prosecutors agreed to recommend a reduction in the maximum prison term of 20 years.

But in motions filed this week, attorney Kevin Darken cited testimony from three psychiatrists who claim Stewart was suffering from an undiagnosed case of bipolar disorder when a doctor prescribed him the antidepressant Paxil in 2002. The interaction allegedly flipped a "manic switch" that caused Stewart to make bizarre and impulsive decisions throughout his two-year-long scam.

According to Darken, Stewart allegedly:

- Kept a parrot in his Jabil office even though it bit people; ate a bag of marijuana while in Amsterdam on a business trip; and drank so heavily at an Orlando conference for Jabil controllers that he cut his head open in the pool.

- Bought a 2.2-pound gold bar, a gold-plated Colt .45 pistol, mailboxes for seven of his Hunter's Green neighbors, $100,000 worth of coins, a solo ticket for a trip down the Amazon River and a John Deere lawn mower that he drove home from the store. He also donated more than $25,000 to the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. Daily shoplifting ventures culminated with his arrest outside a Publix grocery store.

"If this problem had been identified quickly and early ... I have no doubt that Stewart would not have suffered from this manic behavior and would not find himself in his current legal predicament," University of South Florida psychiatric research director David Sheehan said in a letter to the court. "This phenomenon of secondary mania has been well-documented in medical literature."

Stewart called his check-writing scheme compulsive and risky during a 2005 psychiatric evaluation.

"I didn't set up any shadow companies," he reportedly told Sheehan. "I just processed the checks ... (and) copied them on the copier in front of my colleagues and bosses."

Stewart kept each check under $50,000 so that he wouldn't need to obtain a second signature.

Stewart has repaid more than $1-million to Jabil. The federal government is reclaiming still more by seizing his home, cars and other assets.

Jabil spokeswoman Beth Walters said she was unaware of Stewart's last-minute gambit.

"We're confident the U.S. Attorneys' office will address the purported 'Paxil defense' during Monday's hearing," she said.

Times staff researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Scott Barancik can be reached at barancik@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8751.