SALT LAKE CITY — A federal judge has drastically reduced the prison sentence for a Brigham City pill doctor convicted of illegally prescribing painkillers.
Rather than serve 20 years behind bars, Dewey C. MacKay, 66, will now serve three years, according to an order U.S. District Judge Dee Benson issued Wednesday.
Benson originally sentenced MacKay to 20 years after a jury found him guilty in December 2011 of 37 counts of illegally dispensing painkillers — including two that resulted in the death of a 55-year-old man — and three counts of using a communication device in a drug trafficking offense. Jurors acquitted him of 44 other counts.
MacKay appealed and the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals sent the case back to the district court for resentencing because it was unclear whether the judge intended to impose the 20 years on each count. Meantime, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in another case that would have bearing on MacKay's sentence.
Benson wrestled with the original sentence and reluctantly imposed it under federal minimum-mandatory guidelines.
"This was not an easy case. It was a close one," he wrote in his resentencing order.
Benson noted MacKay had both admirers and detractors in his community. He wrote that there was no direct proof of the doctor deciding to become a criminal but there was significant circumstantial evidence against him.
"To say the least, the nature and circumstances of MacKay’s offenses and his history and characteristics are both troubling and complicated," the judge wrote. "To the extent the government attempts to depict MacKay as a despicable type of criminal, the court disagrees."
Benson wrote that MacKay, who suffers from severe health problems, has been a model inmate the past two years. He has completed 22 education courses, works as a tutor, teaches Sunday church services and sings in the choir.