A federal judge intervened when prosecutors wanted to put a 72-year-old man in jail for almost a decade.
Richard Messerly, a Macomb County pharmacist, plead guilty to unlawful distribution Thursday. Prosecutors believe he put thousands of dangerous and addictive opioids into the community, and they even claimed he was responsible for a local man's overdose. They asked the judge to have Messerly imprisoned for nine years.
"If we want the system to work fairly, we want to drive the message that no one should deal drugs," said Local 4 legal expert Neil Rockind. "Then we need to punish the people who had every opportunity to avoid criminal activity."
Rockind said the opioid epidemic has prosecutors pushing for longer prison sentences to send a message to others, but Messerly's attorney Christopher Pencak says there's more to the story.
"He wasn't all there mentally," Pencak said. "And some people should have helped him."
According to Pencak, Messerly isn't as sharp as he once was. In addition, he suffers from Parkinson's disease. Pencak asked the judge for probation, saying Messerly was confused and wasn't attempting to profit on selling addictive substances without a prescription. The judge called the violation too serious to ignore, but ultimately had sympathy for they elderly pharmacist's health issues, sentencing Messerly to one year and one day behind bars.
"No one won or lost today," Pencak said. "I think justice was done. Certainly him getting custody at his age is terrible."
The judge said he did believe that the pharmacist handing out the pills likely caused a death, but decided that would not play a factor in how much time would be spent behind bars.
Messerly is being allowed to turn himself in after the holidays.