Rep. Rob Bishop, politicians vouch for convicted Brigham City pill doctor

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 6 2011 6:11 p.m. MST

Dr. Dewey MacKay enters federal court in Salt Lake City on July 20, 2011. He was convicted of 40 counts of illegally dispensing painkillers and will be sentenced Dec. 15. Many have written letters asking the judge to give him a lenient sentence.

Kerry Jensen, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — Congressman Rob Bishop is among several politicians writing letters on behalf of a Brigham City doctor who faces prison for illegally prescribing painkillers.

Bishop, R-Utah, doesn't ask a federal judge to go easy on Dewey C. MacKay, but vouches for his character as a person and a physician.

"I would not hesitate to use him for any medical needs I or my family might have," he wrote.

A former school teacher,  Bishop notes in the two page letter to Judge Dee Benson that he taught all of MacKay's children at Box Elder High School. He also wrote that MacKay treated his son's broken arm.

In closing, the congressman writes: "I respectfully ask for your consideration of Dr. MacKay's contribution to our community when rendering your final decision concerning him."

MacKay, 63, was convicted in August of 40 counts of illegally dispensing painkillers, including two that resulted in the death of a 55-year-old man. The jury acquitted him of 44 other counts. Benson is scheduled to sentence him Dec. 15. MacKay faces a 20-year minimum mandatory prison sentence on the counts related to the death and as many as 15 years on the other counts.

Jurors basically had to decide whether MacKay was a caring doctor or a drug dealer.

Federal prosecutors said MacKay wrote 20,612 prescriptions for hydrocodone products from January 2005 to October 2009, totaling more than 1.9 million pills. He had the highest volume of prescriptions for hydrocodone in the state five years in a row.

Bishop's letter is among several dozen the court received from MacKay's family, friends, colleagues and patients. The congressman wasn't the only politician writing on the doctor's behalf. Others include state Sen. Pete Knudson, R-Brigham City, Box Elder County Commissioner LuAnn Adams and Gunnision Mayor Lori Nay.

The letters praise MacKay's community, professional and church work. He served as an LDS Church bishop, raised money for cancer research and volunteered on the Box Elder County Search and Rescue scuba team He was Brigham City's only orthopedic surgeon for many years. He changed his practice to pain management when poor health prevented him from doing surgery.

Knudson describes MacKay as a stalwart of public service and a doctor who takes care of patients even when they don't have the ability to pay.

"My purpose in writing is not to challenge the outcome of the trial but to ask for your leniency as you impose sentence on Dr. MacKay," he wrote. "I believe our community will continue to benefit from the talents and good will of Dr. MacKay and his family."

Adams asks Benson to impose probation. "Prison time will only cost the public and serve no good purpose," the county commissioner wrote.

In her letter, Nay was highly critical of several jurors who of their own volition attended a post-conviction hearing in September, calling it "highly unusual." She said she overheard them make "snide" remarks about defense arguments at the hearing.

"Their lack of respect for the defendant and his supporters, considering the severity of the punishment that was being discussed, was insensitive and shocking," the Gunnison mayor wrote. "For whatever reason, this jury seems to have become an arm of the government as this trial progressed."

E-mail: romboy@desnews.com

Twitter: dennisromboy

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