More on the Drug Stealin’ Pharmacist

This is from this week’s Roane County Newspaper.
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Downey denies
pharmacist got
special treatment

By DAVID HEDGES
Publisher – Roane prosecutor Josh Downey says a pharmacist charged with the theft of narcotics did not receive any special treatment.

Jay Starcher was charged, arraigned, entered a plea and was sentenced at the same time, something even Downey admits is unusual.

The 55-year-old Spencer man was charged with petit larceny and embezzlement after a security officer at the Spencer Walmart said a co-worker saw him putting pills in his pocket on May 10. The officer provided State Police with video from a store security camera.

After a count revealed the store was short 103 hydrocodone pills, Cpl. F.L. Hammack said Starcher admitted taking pills from the store.

Starcher and his attorney showed up after magistrate court was closed June 10 for a first appearance on the misdemeanor charges. That will also be his last appearance because the case was finalized at the same time.

Downey agreed to drop the embezzlement charge and Starcher pled guilty to petit larceny. He was fined $100 and ordered to pay court costs and $100 restitution.

Downey agreed it was rare for the wheels of justice to turn so fast.

“It is uncommon for that to happen,” he said this week. “That’s just the way the cards fell.”

Downey became prosecutor in January, but a more experienced attorney agreed it was unusual.

“I’ve never seen it before in my 12 years,” public defender Teresa Monk said. “It’s never happened with any of my clients.”

Magistrate Jason Bennett, who handled the case, also found it odd.

“It was done very quickly,” Bennett said. “I didn’t particularly care for the way it happened.”

Bennett said when Hammack filed the complaint around 2 p.m. that day he asked Bennett if he would be in the office around 4:30. Magistrate court closes at 4 p.m.

“Since I had court that day I knew I would still be in the office doing paperwork, so I said sure,” Bennett said.

He said around 4:30 Starcher, Starcher’s wife and attorney Mort Titus arrived at the office, followed by Hammack a few minutes later.

Downey was already in the office and met with Hammack, then Starcher and Titus, behind closed doors in the jury room.

When they emerged, Downey told Bennett a plea was worked out and he wanted to dismiss the embezzlement charge.

First Starcher had to be arraigned and have bond set, a move Bennett said Downey did not think was necessary.

Bennett said the bond of $12,500 he set came from a schedule he uses for a list of various offenses.

“I have a bond schedule I go by so each person charged with the same crime gets the same bond,” he said. “That way it’s fair across the board.”

With the guilty plea, Downey asked for a $100 fine and $100 in restitution, but no jail.

Bennett said he could have refused the plea agreement, which is something he has not done since he became a magistrate in January.

“I’ve never denied a plea agreement,” he said. “If the prosecutor wants to dismiss a charge, I assume there’s a reason.”

After being arraigned and posting bond and entering a guilty plea to petit larceny, Starcher paid the fine, costs and restitution and the case was over in less than an hour.

While it may be unusual, Bennett said any defendant has the right to enter a plea at their first appearance in court on a charge.

“But not everyone is fortunate enough to have the prosecutor in the office,” he said. “I don’t know if that was by chance or not. That would be a question he would have to answer.”

Downey admitted it was not by chance. “I may have had a preliminary discussion with his attorney,” he said, later adding he thought he had spoken with Titus “a day or two before.”

Monk said she had never known of a case where the prosecutor appeared in magistrate court at the same time someone was arrested.

“I’ve never heard of it,” she said.

Monk said she also was surprised at the outcome of the case.

She said she had a client in a similar situation — a paramedic accused of stealing drugs from the county ambulance service.

She said he was arrested on felony charges that were reduced to misdemeanors only after several months of legal argument.

Her client went to trial and was convicted on two counts. Roane Circuit Judge Tom Evans sentenced him in November to six months in jail and fined him $200.

“I would have thought there would be a harsher penalty for a pharmacist – someone who knew what he was doing,” Monk said.

“That’s even what Judge Evans said at sentencing. He said since he was a paramedic he should have known better,” Monk said.

“This just seemed like a slap on the wrist,” she said.

Downey said he considers several factors when he recommends a sentence, including prior criminal record, whether or not there is a victim and what sanctions a person may face outside the court system.

He said Hammack was in agreement with the plea in this case.

“It was not done this way to give anyone any special treatment,” Downey said. “It was just a way to get it off the docket. I was over there and we took care of it.”
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Yea, they took care of it…
While all at the same time agreeing it is “unusual”.

More than unusual, this is a travesty. All I can think of is all those folks less fortunate in the court system whose arrests and convictions DIDN’T “just go that way”.

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Published in: on June 25, 2009 at 4:14 pm  Comments (2)  
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Double Standards in Drug Prosecutions For the Area

If you keep up on the local news lately regarding the illegal trade in pharmaceuticals, you will see that the police have been mighty busy.

And if you have any knowledge or experience in how the court system usually works for the “common man”, you will know that it can take years to get thru the courts if you pleade not guilty and at least months if you take a plea bargain.

Now, comes the bust of a local PHARMACIST, (and here) one who has been working as a pharmacist in this area for quite some time. This is one of the people who is in a position to aid in STOPPING pharmaceutical abuse. But instead was discovered to be contributing to the problem. This is not a whole lot different than discovering a priest who is molesting children….

He seems to have been “caught” stealing 103 hydrocodone pills. Of course this does not address how many times he may have done this BEFORE being caught, having been a pharmacist for several YEARS…

Word on the street is that each hydrocodone pill can be sold for $5 to$10 a piece. Yet, this individual was only asked to pay restitution to the tune of a hundred dollar bill for all. He was ALLOWED to take a plea agreement the SAME DAY HE WAS CAUGHT! No hanging in the court system for months like the rest of the world.Very handy for him.

BUT, where is the investigation? Are they assuming that he was ONLY stealing pills for his own consumption???? What was he DOING with those pills he was stealing. Are we assuming this is the ONLY time he ever stole any pills????

How in the world was someone who was caught stealing 103 hydrocodone pills, as a pharmacist, only charged with a minor misdemeanor??? $100 fine (plus court cost). While others less fortunate in the black market pill trade spend time in jail, pay thousands in bail and eventual fines, and are forced to attend sketchy NA meetings, this man, being I assume an otherwise “upstanding member of the community” walks away with a slap on the hand, all in one day.

This NEVER HAPPENS in the West Virginia Court System. Period.

This should be  just plain OBVIOUS. To ANYONE.

This man SHOULD have been MADE AN EXAMPLE OF!!! Not let slide and the whole thing swept under the carpet as fast as possible.

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There seems to be a repeated pattern in these parts, which is to ALLOW certain individuals to continue their nefarious deeds, pretty much unhindered by things like laws and police, while others are targeted and dragged thru a seemingly unending morass of legal red tape. One would assume there is some underlying reason why certain people can be targeted by the police at the drop of a hat based on questionable information, while others go unscathed even with eye witnesses and reliable evidence.

Who actually gains? NOT the taxpayers, for sure. NOT the citizens in general. Not those unfortunate enough to get caught.

The police, once assumed to be the protectors of society, have turned to an agenda which requires turning loose some of the worst offenders in order to follow them, WATCH their moves and allow them to operate for months, and eventually catch up more people in their web. This strategy obviously does nothing to protect the innocent population, but actually allows them to be placed even more in harms way for the sake of, what. Entrapment? A few bucks in the state’s coffers? Another notch on the belt of some overly ambitious cop?

Who benefits?