An officer dies fighting drugs, a judge consoles a drug dealer

Jan 16 2012 - 12:33pm


Charles F. Trentelman
Charles F. Trentelman

On Wednesday, several thousand police buried Ogden Officer Jared Francom who died serving a search warrant on Matthew Stewart, who was suspected of growing pot.

That same day, a sympathetic federal judge in Salt Lake City presided over some fancy legal maneuvers to keep a convicted drug dealer, Brigham City Dr. Dewey C. MacKay, out of prison.

Federal District Judge Dee Benson even apologized to MacKay for the trouble MacKay was having. Benson said he can't imagine "the nightmare" MacKay and his family are going through.

We bury a cop killed fighting drugs the same day a federal judge apologizes to a convicted drug dealer who is having a bad day?

I was gobsmacked.

Francom's death shows the length to which society goes, and the danger its agents face, dealing with criminal drug use.

Judge Benson's behavior is an insult to Francom's sacrifice, but if I ever get busted, Benson is the guy I want on the bench. He's a sucker for a sob story, and some powerful people are blubbering.

Like U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop.

Bishop was joined by State Sen. Pete Knudson and many others writing Benson that MacKay is an upstanding citizen, prominent in church, active in Rotary and a fine father. More than 244 such letters were submitted by the defense to the court

The pleas seem to be working. Benson has repeatedly apologized to MacKay for the horrible things law enforcement is doing to him. He chided the prosecution for trying to seize the doctor's property and complained of being forced to sentence MacKay to 20 years in prison after the jury convicted MacKay on 40 counts of distribution of controlled substances.

I can't find any mention of the judge serving MacKay milk and cookies, but that's certainly next.

What rot.

MacKay is a drug dealer. Between June 1, 2005, and Oct. 30, 2009, he prescribed 3.5 million hydrocodone and Oxycodone pills in his Brigham City office. That's enough to give every man, woman and infant in Box Elder County 70 high-octane pain pills.

Drug addicts love doctors like MacKay. Between 80 and 120 people from all over Utah visited him every day. DEA undercover tapes and testimony document MacKay handing over prescriptions after the most cursory of exams.

MacKay's victims describe family members addicted for life, or dead. One, a woman in Brigham City who still fears the doctor, called me, furious at Benson.

"People have died," she cried. "My daughter's brother-in-law, when he died, he had five undissolved Oxycodone in his stomach and they were his (MacKay's) prescription."

It's easy to blame addicts, but good doctors know addiction laughs at the concept of free will.

MacKay is worse than a thug dealing nickel bags and crack because he operated under the guise of healing. One of the lies prescription-drug addicts tell themselves is that the drugs are OK because a doctor prescribed them.

Francom died working to make my community better. Matthew Stewart, who may face the death penalty, is going to have a very rough future.

Unless, of course, Stewart can get his case before Judge Benson.

Then, if MacKay's case is any guide, Stewart can swear he's sorry, say he's a good member of the community, mention he's a veteran and promise it will never happen again.

Judge Benson will then work to keep Stewart out of jail.

He may even apologize for the noise the police guns made.

Wasatch Rambler is the opinion of Charles Trentelman. You can call him at 801-625-4232 or email He also blogs at

UPDATE: This column was edited from the original publication to remove references to U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch writing a letter to Benson in support of MacKay. There is no indication Hatch wrote such a letter.


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