Dewey MacKay's 3-year prison term stands, for now

Tuesday , July 01, 2014 - 7:10 PM

Tim Gurrister
Standard-Examiner staff

SALT LAKE CITY -- A federal judge on Tuesday declined to reconsider his three-year prison sentence for a Brigham City doctor convicted of illegally dealing thousands of prescription pills a day over a five-year period.

Judge Dee Benson had sentenced Dewey MacKay, 67, in April to the three-year term after the 10th Circuit of Appeals in Denver sent the case back to him. The appellate court, on a defense motion, found Benson's original 20-year sentence too harsh, something Benson said himself at MacKay's original sentencing in May of 2012.

He said so today again at the end of a near three-hour hearing where federal prosecutors asked for a harsher sentence.

"It freed me from being bound by the 20-year-minimum mandatory sentence," Benson said of the circuit court's ruling.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Kennedy hammered on the jury conviction of MacKay, found guilty of prescribing Percocet and Lortab to as many as 90 patients a day.

"That's in the realm of 5,000 pills a day prescribed from his little office in Brigham City," he said.

Kennedy told the judge much of the hearing today was meant to create a record for a likely appeal of the circuit court's decision. After the hearing, Kennedy and the rest of the prosecution team declined to comment to reporters on the status of the appeal beyond noting a first step would be filing notice of appeal.

MacKay's attorney, Peter Stirba, said after the hearing his client will likely do less than three years, with credit for good behavior, and may be released before the end of this year.

MacKay was convicted in 2011 after a five-week trial on 40 counts of illegally prescribing painkillers, but was found innocent of 46 other counts on the same offense. Two of the counts included language that the pills prescribed contributed to the overdose death of one of MacKay’s longtime patients, 55-year-old ATK Thiokol engineer David Wirick of Ogden.

Wirick’s widow and daughter stood in court Tuesday to protest the reduced sentence and even chastise Judge Benson.

"I don’t know when he crossed the line from pain management to drug addiction,“ Susan Wirick said in describing her husband of 36 years. He worked as firefighter-paramedic in Ogden and Salt Lake before retiring on disability after a traffic accident led to numerous back surgeries. But he still was able to earn an engineering degree and work in the aerospace industry before the addiction set in, she said.

MacKay knew Wirick was addicted because she told him, Susan Wirick said, adding she had asked MacKay numerous times to stop providing the painkillers.

"I am angry,” Susan Wirick said. "Three years is all Dr. MacKay is going to get because everyone thinks he’s a good guy? I am angry because, with all the publicity over the years, my children are treated as the kids of a drug addict.”

Amber Wirick Munns said a 3-year sentence was ”an insulting slap on the wrists essentially rewarding Dr. MacKay and sending a message that with enough political backing and money you won’t do time like a street dealer does.“

Kennedy argued to the judge that MacKay was a drug dealer, no different from a MacKay patient who took the drugs he was prescribed and peddled them on the street.

"One’s got a medical degree, and the other’s got an addiction.”

Contact reporter Tim Gurrister at 801-625-4238 or Follow him on Twitter at @tgurrister.

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