SALT LAKE CITY — A federal judge sentenced Brigham City doctor Dewey MacKay to 20 years in prison Monday, begrudgingly.
U.S. District Judge Dee Benson in handing down the sentence expressed unhappiness that he had no leeway under federal sentencing rules.
“This sentence is too long,” Benson said, referring to the 20-year minimum mandatory term leaving him no discretion.
“Congress is imposing this sentence, not me. I do like my job, but not today. I don’t believe the sentence is just.”
MacKay, 64, was convicted Aug. 18 on 40 of 86 counts of illegally prescribing painkillers. The counts were tied to 12 of MacKay’s patients who claimed he gave them whatever narcotics they asked for with little or no medical examination.
After a five-week trial, the jury found MacKay was seeing 100 or more patients a day at times and filling prescriptions for no medical reason.
MacKay was ordered to surrender Feb. 1.
However, his defense attorneys told reporters after Monday’s hearing a motion asking that MacKay remain free pending appeal will be heard before then.
The motion was filed Saturday with Benson. Supporting documents were added Monday just before the sentencing hearing.
Regardless of the outcome of that motion, to be argued in Salt Lake City, the case now moves to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, the defense team said, for the appeal of the jury’s verdict that will be filed soon.
“This case is not going to be over for quite a while,” said Michael Hansen, one of MacKay’s lawyers.
Two of the charges the doctor was found guilty of were tied to the 2006 overdose death of MacKay’s patient, David Wirick, 55, of Ogden, an engineer at ATK Thiokol.
“We could have filed a thousand counts against Dr. MacKay. We could have brought 100 victims to court for every one we named in the indictment,” Assistant U.S. Attorney for Utah Michael Kennedy argued to the judge, while noting it was not logistically feasible.
Reading a letter from one of the aforementioned uncharged victims, Kennedy quoted: “He traded drugs for cash with addicts, knowing they’d keep their mouths shut, and that no one would believe them if they didn’t.”
Lead defense counsel Peter Stirba read one of the 244 letters filed with the court just this month in support of MacKay, and even the prosecution acknowledged his generous volunteerism and service to the community.
Quoting Craig Simper, general counsel for Utah State University, he read: “If it were possible, I and others would volunteer to serve his prison sentence for him.”
In addition to the apologetic sentence, Benson denied a prosecution motion seeking more than $687,000 in restitution for four of MacKay’s victims, including $597,000 sought by Wirick’s heirs.
“One thing this trial illuminated is the area of pain medication … when does pain management become dependency that turns into addiction? Even the doctors don’t know,” the judge said.
MacKay, in remarks to the court, said he apologized for the pain families of his patients felt, but said he was only trying to help people who were suffering.
“I was duped by a dozen patients with ulterior motives,” he said. “I never, ever had any criminal intent.
“I’ve never written a prescription I thought wasn’t needed.”
SALT LAKE CITY -- Dewey MacKay was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison today for his conviction on 18 counts of illegally prescribing painkillers.
But U.S. District Judge Dee Benson, in handing down the sentence, expressed unhappiness that he had no leeway under federal sentencing rules.
"This sentence is too long," Benson said, referring to the mandates accompanying the statute. "I have no discretion.
"Congress is imposing this sentence, not me. I do like my job, but not today. I don't believe the sentence is just."
MacKay was ordered to surrender on Feb. 1. However, his defense attorneys told reporters after the hearing they have a filed motion to allow MacKay to be released, pending the outcome of an appeal to be filed with the 10th District Circuit Court in Denver. A hearing on that motion will be held before MacKay's Feb. 1 surrnder date.