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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Pain patient hopes for clemency today
The governor and Cabinet will hear the story of the man with 700 pills.
By JAMAL THALJI, Times Staff Writer
Published September 20, 2007
[Times files (2004)]
Richard Paey is serving a 25-year sentence for drug possession and trafficking.
Richard Paey says he is not a drug trafficker. He needs drugs for chronic, debilitating pain.
But in 2004 he was convicted of illegally obtaining drugs, after being charged under laws designed to stop trafficking.
He has pleaded his case to anyone who would listen: jurors and appellate judges, 60 Minutes and the New York Times.
It has gotten him a lot of sympathy, a lot of attention, but so far it hasn't gotten him out of prison. It's 22 years and counting on a 25-year sentence.
Today, Gov. Charlie Crist and the three members of the Florida Cabinet will hear Paey's case.
Clemency is Paey's last, best shot at freedom for years to come - and attorney John Flannery II could get just five minutes to make the case for his client.
"This not a drug trafficking case," Flannery said. "This is a pain treatment case."
That is the heart of the plea Flannery and Paey's family will make today in Tallahassee.
A 1985 car crash, botched back surgery and multiple sclerosis left Paey in need of painkillers and a wheelchair. But in 1997 he was arrested, accused of illegally possessing and trafficking in 700 pills obtained with fraudulent prescriptions. Authorities believed he had to be selling, not using, that many pills.
Paey's supporters still contest every bit of the state's case. They hope the governor and cabinet will commute his sentence to time served and throw out a $500,000 fine.
In August the governor's office announced that Paey, a 48-year-old Hudson father of three, was granted a waiver allowing his case to be heard today.
Usually petitioners must wait until they have served a third of their sentences before they can ask for clemency.
Flannery and Paey's family were supposed to have just five minutes at the waiver hearing, too, but instead were allowed to speak for more than an hour.
The lawyer doesn't know if he'll get more than five minutes this time. Regardless, his argument will be a succinct one: Criminal drug laws are inadequate to deal with the medical problem of pain management.
"All of us have a ... concern that controlled substances are addictive," Flannery said. "But we forget the flip side of that ... there are people who need treatment and for them these medications are a miracle.
"Without these medications their life is a living hell."
It takes three out of four votes to grant clemency. If the clemency board - the governor and Cabinet - turn Paey down, he'll have to wait more than four years to apply again.
To impress the clemency board, Paey gave up his appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.