Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Meet Scott Earle

If one compelling case is sufficient to change the law - think Adam Walsh Act, Megan's Law, and the Amber Alert - then the only thing you need to know about how rotten Florida's prescription drug mandatory minimum laws are is the case of Scott Earle.

Scott Earle and his mom
Meet Scott Earle.

Scott began using painkillers after a sports injury when he was a teenager. After being in several car accidents, his dependence on the medication grew until he was taking over a dozen pills each day. Despite his addiction, Scott held full-time employment at an auto dealership and worked as a musician on the side.

In September of 1995, Scott was admitted to the emergency room for a painful diverticulitis attack. The doctor prescribed him Vicodin. Several days later, Scott’s roommate introduced him to a beautiful woman at a neighborhood bar. After getting drinks with Scott and learning of his recent hospital visit, the woman asked him if she could have some of his pills for her back pain. He agreed and gave her some of his own pills.

Unbeknownst to Scott, the woman was an undercover police officer. Soon, she began calling Scott at home and at work, asking if he could get more pain medication for her. Scott’s legal prescription had run out so he contacted a friend who knew someone that could supply the woman with painkillers. The officer started out by purchasing small amounts of pills and then began requesting over 100 at a time. Scott, who had developed strong feelings for his new “friend,” would meet her at the neighborhood bar, where she would pick up her pills from the supplier. Afterwards, she and Scott would drink and talk for hours. Scott acted as a middleman who connected the officer to a man selling pain medicine. He did not benefit monetarily from the transactions. Three months after meeting the woman at the bar, Scott was arrested for felony drug trafficking and conspiracy.

Scott accepted responsibility for his actions and pled guilty. In return, he received the only penalty allowed under Florida law: a 25-year mandatory minimum sentence. The sentencing judge was appalled at the sentence he was forced to impose on a first-time nonviolent offender:  "[T]his punishment does not fit the crime. We are not talking about a first or second degree murder…with a great degree of reluctance, I will have to sentence the defendant [to] 25 years minimum mandatory."
The judge's words have been of little comfort to Scott Earle as he has languished in prison for the past 12 years. Unless something changes, he will not be released until October 2019. I hope something changes.
- Ingersoll