Criminal Justice

Pain-Patient Pardon Ends 25-Year Term

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The wife of a disabled Florida man serving a 25-year sentence for trafficking in drugs–the medication he needs to suppress his pain–was stunned yesterday when the state pardoned him at a scheduled hearing on his request for a sentence commutation.

Richard Paey, 48, who suffers from chronic fiery pain in his back and legs following a 1985 car accident and botched back surgery, had been seeking to be released from prison, where he has been since his 2004 conviction. But it never occurred to him and his family to seek a full pardon, reports the St. Petersburg Times.

“It was a complete shock,” said Linda Paey, after the Florida Cabinet unanimously agreed yesterday with Gov. Charlie Crist’s on-the-spot recommendation that Richard Paey be pardoned and released immediately. “I didn’t know you could do that.” What made the outcome even more surprising was that the Florida Parole Commission had recommended against commuting his sentence to time served. Her husband was going to have the same reaction, she predicted, when he learned of the pardon. “He’ll be shocked. We’re all shocked.”

Also suffering from multiple sclerosis, which requires him to use a wheelchair in prison, Paey has a legitimate need for pain medication–as state Corrections Department officials recognize, since they have been dispensing it to him daily, his supporters point out.

A turning point at yesterday’s hearing in Tallahassee came when the governor allowed Paey’s lawyer, John Flannery II, 30 minutes to present the case, the newspaper reports, followed by testimony from Linda Paey, the couple’s three children and a family friend. The usual time limit is five minutes.

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