Prosecutor Scott Andringa Tried To Put a Paraplegic Man In Prison For 25 Years For Having Too Many Pain Pills

Let me be perfectly clear about this: Scott Andringa tried to put a paraplegic man in prison for 25 years for having too many pain pills.

This happened a few years ago, and obviously the story is a bit more complicated than I can summarize in that one sentence, but that’s basically what happened. The paraplegic man is named Richard Paey. He’s been in a car accident, he’s suffered through failed back surgery, and he has multiple sclerosis. Without medication, he’d be in a lot of pain. And he’d still be in jail thanks to prosecutor Scott Andringa if Governor Charlie Crist hadn’t pardoned him.

Given the kinds of things I blog about, I hear a lot of stories about prosecutors who do crazy evil shit like this. (For example, I just wrote about U.S. Attorney Tanya Treadway, who abused the grand jury system to harass Siobhan Reynolds and shutdown her pain management advocacy organization.) I worry that they’ll get away with it–no, that’s not quite right. I know they’ll get away with it. They’re prosecutors: They have immunity. What I’m really worried about is that they’ll thrive.

In my imagination, people who commit these kinds of atrocites are shunned. They have a hard time finding employment, and when they walk down the street, old ladies spit on the sidewalk in front of them, and mothers make their children cross the street so as not to pass too close.

In reality, of course, such behavior rarely has any consequences, and these people often have long careers in public life. States Attorney Janet Reno was at the heart of the Satanic sexual abuse panic down in Florida, and yet President Bill Clinton appointed her as U.S. Attorney General. Both Rudy Giuliani and Eliot Spitzer used their prosecutorial offices as platforms for self-aggrandizement, eventually becoming mayor and governor of their respective New Yorks. And former U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan may have lost her bid for Congress, but we probably haven’t seen the last of her.

So whenever I read about some outrageous behavior by a prosecutor, I worry that if nobody pays attention, they’ll just turn up again in public service somewhere to cause even more damage. At one point, I even tried to start a web site to keep track of these people, so that we’ll recognize them when they pop up again, and have information about the crap they’ve pulled. It never really worked out, so I’m left trying to lure search engines by blogging about things like how Scott Andringa tried to put a paraplegic man in prison for 25 years for having too many pain pills.

I’m bringing all this up because look what Scott Andringa’s been up to:

On Monday, December 13th, 2010, Scott Andringa; 42, a member of The Florida Bar since 1993,  announced his candidacy for Pinellas County Judge, Group 2, in the 2012 election.

Gee, I wonder who holds that position now? Oh yeah, it’s Henry J. Andringa, who happens to be Scott’s father.

In a terrific post at Res Publica, blogger Spartacus Thrace at Res Publica has far more detail about Scott Andringa and his run for office:

Among the elected officials in Pinellas County up for election in 2012 is Judge of the County Court, Group 2, a seat currently occupied by Henry J. “Hank” Andringa, who is expected to retire in 2012.  Until now, there has been considerable speculation as to who might run for this seat when it becomes vacant.  That speculation ended December 13, 2010 when, with little fanfare, Andringa’s son, Attorney R. Scott Andringa, announced that he has entered the race to succeed his father when the next election is held, on November 6, 2012.

Sounds like Scott’s really qualified to be a judge.

(Read the whole post by Spartacus. It’s got a brief biography of Andringa, a good summary of the Richard Paey case, and some analysis of Andringa’s chance of winning the election.)

In any case, I’ll finish now with one last reminder to all those Pinellas County voters: Scott Andringa tried to put a paraplegic man in prison for 25 years for having too many pain pills.

23 Responses to Prosecutor Scott Andringa Tried To Put a Paraplegic Man In Prison For 25 Years For Having Too Many Pain Pills

  1. People like Scott Adringa are thoroughly contemptible. I’m not big on wishing ill on people, but I wouldn’t be terribly saddened if Mr. Adringa contracted some relentlessly painful condition that no physician would agree to treat with medication suitable for proper pain management. The man has it coming.

    Alas, I don’t believe that the natural world is ordered such that what goes around reliably comes around. I fully expect Adringa to live out his life inflicting egregious harm on others until his dying day.

  2. Doc, I assure you, you’re not the first person to wish a painful medical condition on Scott Andringa. There was a lot of that going around when the Richard Paey story was in the news. As you say, the world doesn’t usually work that way. And even if it did, I don’t know if someone so apparently lacking in empathy would see the connection. I’m sure he’d think his situation is completely different.

    Then again, according to the post by Spartacus Thrace, a couple members of Scott Andringa’s family died from cancer, and he’s a cancer survivor himself. Who knows what he was thinking?

  3. What does most disable people wish for? To be treated like everyone else. And that’s what prosecutor Scott Andringa did. He treated him as he would any criminal. This man had evidence of forging his prescription for self- relief. The attorney did not convict him that was the unbiased people of jury. You want someone to blame them. However, if we make exceptions for people in wheel chairs then maybe we should give them all a free pass to murder, and abuse. The evidence was there he was convicted; the attorney did his job, which was to present evidence. It was the jury’s job to decide. But we are so quick to judge the attorney, and what a wrong attorney to judge. He himself battled cancer and was in pain, and watched his mother die of cancer. Empathy, this attorney has, Pain this attorney has endured. To wish pain on someone is awful, he didn’t make the arrest, nor did he make the laws, he defended our state and we should be grateful for that. Richard took advantage of his doctor’s kindness, and I’m sorry I am not going to say he doesn’t belong in jail because he has so much pain already and is in a wheel chair. If he molested a child, or murdered your brother would you have empathy for him then? He broke the law; this doesn’t make the attorney a horrible person for doing his job. It makes you horrible people for wishing pain on a man like Scott Andringa , just because the thought of a paraplegic man in jail makes you uncomfortable.

  4. “However, if we make exceptions for people in wheel chairs then maybe we should give them all a free pass to murder, and abuse. ”

    That is a ridiculous comparison. We can and should make exceptions in providing medication to people who suffer painfully disabling conditions. It is nuts to compare the efforts of suffering people to obtain pain relief with murder and abuse. What makes me uncomfortable is not the thought of a paraplegic man in jail. What makes me uncomfortable is idiot politicians and prosecutors thinking that they are remotely qualified to practice medicine. They aren’t and their busybody, ill-informed interference with medical practice is morally criminal.

  5. You are ignoring the fact that him needing more medication was not the issue at hand, it was that he stole blank prescription pads and a stamp from his doctor to prescribe himself drugs…That is illegal, put yourself in the doctors shoes, his life could have been comprised based on someone who did an illegal act. The issue was not whether or not he needed the drugs, but was he guilty of fraud? and yes he was. He chose to do that, besides so many people are dying from over use of these drugs this why the doctors can only supply so much. As it stated in the case if he truly consumed all 18,000 pills in two years he would have taken 5 pain killers every hour without a break for sleep for two solid years, how dangerous; that could have easily of killed him, provided he did not sell any or give any away. The statement made was because fraud is dangerous, as other laws that are broken; he could have died from consuming that many pain killers and who would be to blame? the doctor? All because he chose to forge the doctors name on prescriptions. There are reasons why they limit the intake. My aunt’s liver is ruined from pain killers, and I bet his will be too; especially if he is being honest about taking all 18,000 in two years. My point in that statement was to say that we can’t just make exceptions on the reasons why laws are broken. We need to draw the line somewhere. Laws are made to be followed not to make exceptions, some may say that they murdered their husband because he was abusive, and their quality of life was horrible, and although you may empathy for the wife, we can’t bend the laws. They are set, and fraud is no different. Logically think about the details how many people abuse the drugs they are given? They are highly addictive and every case has to be treated based on laws that are set. Again this was not a case of if he received enough drugs it was a case that he broke the law. PERIOD. And I noticed you chose to ignore the part of the attorney not making the arrests, the laws or the verdict. Why is he to blame? I felt this article was a little dramatic. And to wish pain and suffering is nothing more than juvenile.

  6. Donna, he wasn’t charged with forging a prescription — a charge which, if substantiated, would’ve brought him far less than 25 years in prison, and a charge for which there wasn’t enough evidence to convict even had he been charged for such crime. He was charged with trafficiking in pain pills. Every person involved in the case, including Scott Andriga, said there was absolutely no evidence that he sold or gave away a single pill. The genesis of that charge was the number of pills he had on him — which was about a month’s supply. Under Florida law, that’s all it takes.

    What does that boil down to? Simple. Scott Andriga charged a man for trafficiking in pain pills when he himself admitted there was no evidence that he was actually trafficking in pain pills. Let that sink in.

    Prosecutors are not supposed to slavishly follow the law to its letter in every circumstance. Prosecutors are supposed to be about furthering justice. Charging Mr. Paey in this manner did nothing to further justice; it was all about furthering Mr. Andriga’s career.

  7. I am trying to see from everyone’s point of view honestly. I can’t comprehend though how one can wish pain and suffering on a person. I guess that is what first struck a chord with me, but two in the state of Florida, trafficking does not mean to sell. it can also mean you have a certain amount of drugs without a proper legal prescription as well. If he had followed the doctor’s orders and not forged any prescription he would not have been the situation at hand. Again, Scott Andringa doesn’t make the laws, or the verdict….I am still finding it hard to see the fault of Mr. Andringa. Let it sink in to you that you are all ignoring that he still broke a law. You have a job to do, and sometimes you may hit gray areas….I’m sorry I still fail to see the logic of wishing pain and suffering on a man who was doing his job. But help me to understand a little better; what would you have done in Scott Andringa’s shoes?

  8. What would I have done in Scott Andringa’s shoes? For starters, I wouldn’t have charged him with trafficking in pain pills. While I realize that the letter of the law in Florida, absurdly, does not require proof that one is actually trafficking in pain pills to be convicted of trafficking in pain pills, the spirit of the law is far different. To follow the letter of the law here is ridiculous — if you think he forged a prescription, CHARGE HIM WITH THAT! Scott Andringa charged him with trafficking specifically to scare him into a plea bargain, not because he believed that justice required that charge. When Paey refused the plea bargain (since, you know, he didn’t sell or give away any pain pills), he was punished.

    Look at the jury results in this case. There were three trials — three! The first two resulted in hung juries and mistrials. The third ended in conviction. But do you know why? It was because the foreman of the jury was convinced, and convinced the other jurors, that the maximum penalty Richard Paey could have faced was probation. No jury believed he should go to jail for this crime.

    You seem to be operating under an illusion that if all elements of a crime are met, the prosecutor is duty-bound to charge somebody with that crime. Prosecutors have a power called prosecutorial discretion. That means that sometimes, the interest of justice requires that they not follow the letter of the law, but instead pursue what justice demands. In this case, justice for Richard Paey, even if you assume that he forged prescriptions (which, despite your assertion, was not a given and was never proven), certainly does not involve a mandatory minimum 25 year sentence.

    Why wish pain and suffering upon Scott Andringa? Simple. Do you know what the cumulative effect of these prosecutions of both doctors and patients is? It’s doctors being so afraid to prescribe pain medication, that there are thousands of people that suffer — like my mother, with MS, who can’t find a doctor who will give her proper pain management. Her pain, and the pain of others, is the direct result of the actions of Scott Andringa and similar prosecutors. That’s why.

  9. No evidence of forgery? “In Richard Paey’s room … were the raw materials to make prescriptions. They found a lot of documents that suggested forging prescriptions, and they also found 60 empty bottles of pain relievers, some of which surveillance teams had watched Paey purchase. A jury convicted him of 15 counts of prescription forgery, unlawful possession of a controlled substance, and drug trafficking” (CBS 60 minutes)
    I now do understand what point you are trying to get across, however it’s a bit dramatic. The jury made the decision. And yes, I agree that the laws in Florida are a bit ridiculous. However, it’s still the law. I see how it affects you personally with your mom and MS, and it frustrates you. I too have an aunt very close to me in chronic pain from MS, and she is zombie most of her days from pain pills, and yet they do not even hit close to the amount Richard Paey said he consumed. Chronic pain is something I have watched my family go through and a neighbor who died of MS; and as mentioned above in a response my aunt with a bad liver from medications. However, I have also watched many people die of overdoses of these medications as well. Which is why doctors are so scared to prescribe too many. I have an uncle who was literary hit by a moving train, and lost his leg, and the train crushed him, and doctors still hesitate to give him medicine. My step father had his leg amputated three years ago and before he even asked for medicine the doctor said “If you are here for pain medicine forget it” (in which he was not there for) So I understand that view of it and I understand the difficulty people face when in chronic pain. I can’t say that you are being honest when you say that you wouldn’t have charged him with trafficking; because I don’t know you personally. Just like we don’t know Scott Andringa personally so we can’t say how he is feels about that case, or what type of person he is, or how this has affected him. And Besides we all know what the media can do to a case. I’m sure there is more to the case then is being presented. I fail to see how your mothers pain, my aunt’s pain, and my uncle’s pain and the pains of others is a direct result of a lawyer who presented a case. In fact after Richard was pardoned, I can only assume it will help people in chronic pain. But I will end on this note, you need someone to blame for your mother’s pain, and I need someone to blame for my aunt’s endurance and hope to live. I can tell you that if it wasn’t for people like Scott Andringa, and their own strength, and hope my aunt may not be alive today. She is living with a rear type of Sarcoma; Scott is a recent cancer survivor who contributes his time as a speaker for the Moffitt Cancer Center and the Amanda lee Fund to benefit Sarcoma research. So, there is, you blame Scott Andringa for your mother’s pain, and I will blame Scott Andringa for my aunt’s hope, and strength to live.

  10. “I am trying to see from everyone’s point of view honestly. I can’t comprehend though how one can wish pain and suffering on a person.”

    Interesting, considering your enthusiasm for jailing people.

  11. What DrX said. Wishing someone harm may be an example of giving in to one’s darker side but wishing doesn’t make it so. In fact, since the wished-for harm is natural disease, it’s physically impossible to make it so. On the other hand, prosecuting a guy and locking him in a cage for years…that’s hurting someone for real.

    That Scott Andringa also does good in the world, like speaking for cancer paitents, is one of the complications of human behavior. I’m not trying to discourage him from his charitable work. I’m glad he’s helping people. He can help people all he wants. But I don’t want him to ever again be in a position to decide who should be punished.

  12. Dr. X, – two different things, I don’t know how to answer that except he chose to break the law. As I mentioned above I know multiple people in chronic pain, and still they did not break the law. He chose to forge those prescriptions, maybe the reason is unfortunate, but that’s why laws are in place, as a lawyer he knew the law, and he knew he was breaking it. So Jailing to me is completely different. He chose that path. I do not have any enthusiasm for jailing people, in fact I think the system can be very flawed and I am also an active supporter of the Innocence Project.
    I do however, see that this man had evidence of forgery, and he broke the law, therefore you have to pay the time, no matter what your reasoning is. I have compassion for this man, but I do not see the fault of Scott Andringa.

    And Mark,
    “He can help people all he wants. But I don’t want him to ever again be in a position to decide who should be punished.”

    Although this statement is not as lashing as your original blog, I don’t believe he was ever in the position of deciding who should be punished. Besides now he defends people.

    With him starting his practice as a defense attorney, and he does help people in this world, could it possibly may be that he is not as bad as everyone would like to consider him to be.

    And wishing someone harm is giving into the darker side, and you are right that does nothing…..but show bad morals. Point made.

  13. We can rant here all we want, the powers that be that are supposed to be policing those in power don’t do diddly squat. Washington State Bar Association is a joke. There has only been ONE reprimand of a a prosecutor violating Rule 3.8 ever in our state. There is NO incentive for them to act responsibly, or even obey the very laws they have sworn to uphold. Being a prosecutor is every bully’s “wet dream” they are not accountable to anyone & they have free will to do whatever they choose to do to anyone. They have the power to leave your life in shambles even if you are acquitted, they can say things about you that would get ANYONE else sued for slander, make no mistake they have absolute power.

    What everyone here might not realize is chronic pain at times could be classified as a mental detriment, if you have ever had to live with chronic pain you would do things that are not part of your character just to make the pain quit… Go stand out in the road & get yourself run over & wait a week before you go to the hospital or better yet take a Tylenol or two & see how well that works out for you. I have a broken back & 2 bulging disks & don’t even bother going to the doctor anymore since ALL they want to do is give you narcotics, & when ask for Tramadol & Soma instead they get PO’d beyond belief, so maybe Mr Paey should try Steven’s Memorial or Everett Providence Hospitals & they’ll gladly put him in LaLa Land.

    This is not Florida & although Mr Andringa does not makes the rules he has the POWER to use them in any way he sees fit. I am investigating 3 different prosecutors right now & in an epic battle with one over a misdemeanor & because of it I have lost everything & after 22 court appearances I have not even been tried or convicted yet!!!

  14. This man is pure evil, to make a sick person suffer like this reminds me of the kinds of abuses of human beings that happen in places like China, so to be in pain in America is like being in Falon Gong in China, what a sickening dynamic.

  15. It almost worries me more this attorney has had his own battles, well you know he has dodged a bullet in the health sense, surely he could have some compassion for another sick human being, to jail a man in pain on trumped up charges without even proof he was dealing is shamefull beyond belief, I guess there is truth that it takes ordinary people with ordinary lives to do extraordinary good or evil, in the case of that jailed man, Evil is the by-word of the day, I hope God can forgive Scott for this. Given he had a health brush himself, I reckon he should pray a little more than he usually does from now on.

  16. It’s a strange situation. Here Andringa does this horrible thing to Paey, but then he’s apparently also inspired people like Donna and her aunt. And I know a guy who knew Andringa down in Florida, and he thought Andringa seemed like a pretty nice guy. Maybe he wasn’t quite at the heart of it the way it seems from here.

    By the way, I sort of skipped over it at the time, but Donna complains that I mentioned that Paey is a paraplegic, as if I’m implying that he should be allowed to break the law because of it. But that’s not why I brought up his injuries. I mention that he’s a paraplegic because it means that he’s clearly not just a drug addict looking for a fix. Paey was feeling terrible pain, and he needed those drugs to relieve his suffering. Even the prison doctors thought so. He may have broken the law, but he did it for a pretty damned good reason.

    As for this: “That is illegal, put yourself in the doctors shoes, his life could have been comprised based on someone who did an illegal act.” No, Richard Paey wouldn’t have cause the doctor any problems at all. Only a prosecutor could have done that.

  17. I think the main issue was he was sent to prison and for such a long time.
    Dysesthesia, asscociated with spinal injuries and MS type illnesses is a hellish condition that can make even the horrors like cancer look a walk in the park. If you have ever seen those police training videos of officers doubled over cakking themselves when they have taken a tazer shot, then see the agony in their faces over a 5 second zap, then imagine a far worse pain, not for five seconds but for hours and days and years, even women who have had children without pain relief and then suffered conditions later in life like Mr Paey’s say they would be happy to be back in labour for hours rather than a moment of this kind of neural pain.
    I can well imagine some people would go to any level to get any kind of numbing from this, even death and suicide and these kinds of conditions often go hand in hand. I would challenge anyone here to imagine for one moment they would react to years and decades of this kind of pain with reason and restraint. Andringa could never have imagined what this kind of suffering was like. I read he has since had a brush with cancer himself and the reality of a life and death of fear and pain may have brushed his cheek as it went past him. I have only respect and sypathy with Mr Paey and yes maybe he broke the law, does it give the law the right to break a life, even more than it was already broken? If anyone on here thinks Mr Paey should have had the book thrown at him, well you must be a very sorry life form. I wish Mr Paey all the best in the future,

  18. So some people cannot make exceptions for the reasons why laws are broken….Hmmmm cheerful to know the Khmer Rouge are alive and well after all these years!

  19. I also guess if Mr Andringa wins a mega-lotto gets nominated for President and starts being stalked by Angelina Jolie, then those who wish him to suffer really are terrible at Voodoo lol!

  20. So Andringa had cancer and represents cancer charities? Listen, he went out of his smarmy way to ruin a guys already difficult life, cause Richard Paey’s family needless agony, and go in relentless pursuit of Mr.Paey. Wasn’t one of the Bush nieces caught forging, as was that right wing nut job commentator Rush Limbaugh a few years back? They sure as hell didn’t get 25 years.

    I do hope Andringa’s brusgh with the Big C gave him time for some reflection. I don’t believe Andrigna is evil, I bleieve he’s more of a nerd, a gormless sort of fellow with all the charm and depth of grey oatmeal, or wall putty. He might though be using the whole ‘I’m soo respectable I help charities’ schtick for tax or electoral success purposes…

    I hope he doesn’t become a judge though….

  21. Ahh so our little torturer friend got cancer? Scott Andrigola right?…I also read Pol Pot got cancer too so it’s kinds nice when this disease actually hits those who deserve it rather than innocents :-)

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