The Courageous Legacy of Siobhan Reynolds

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The attractive,
diminutive woman who drove into my driveway on the last Saturday
in October hardly looked to be the person that federal authorities
desperately were trying to find a way to throw into prison. Her
lovely eyes had a sparkle in them, and she hardly looked to be a
threat to the life and liberty of anyone.

Yet, here was
a woman coming into my home who was being targeted by the feds because
she had the audacity to openly question the Drug War in general
and the government's war on people taking pain medications and the
doctors that prescribe them. There is one thing that federal prosecutors
and judges hate, and that is anyone who openly says that they are
doing something that is immoral is a threat that cannot be ignored.

Our visit was
short, unfortunately, because of family business, and I would have
loved for this visit to have gone on for hours. But, it ultimately
ended, and she and her son got back into the car and drove to her
home in Ohio. I never would see her again, as she died Christmas
Eve in a small plane crash near Circleville, Ohio.

Even now, it
is hard to believe she is gone, and for the many people she helped
and befriended, their loss is incalculable. Siobhan
Reynolds was a vital person
in the lives of many because she
was one of the few people in this country who was willing to stand
up and openly support drug-based relief for the millions of people
in the United States who suffer from debilitating pain.

Federal officials,
and especially those whose careers are tied directly to the Drug
War and to the prosecutions of doctors that write prescriptions
for pain medications, would disagree with my assertions that Reynolds
was a hero, and I am sure that more than a few of them are happy
that she no longer lives. (And, no, I don't believe that the feds
were responsible for the crash, as it seems to have been an error
by the pilot, who crashed short of the airport runway.)

Even though
Reynolds had committed no crime (except for having the effrontery
of publicly questioning the validity of a federal prosecutor's case),
she was the victim of an ongoing federal grand jury probe into her
life and into a pain patient advocacy group, the Pain Relief Network,
that she once ran and the feds forced into bankruptcy through vindictive
fines. The worst thing about the government's faux "investigation,"
however, was that it was done under the color of "government
secrecy" in which legal experts agreed that federal prosecutor
Tanya Treadway utterly abused the grand jury process.

How she got
to that point in her life where the government was trying to destroy
her is an important story in itself, and one that I shall tell here.
In the beginning, Siobhan Reynolds was not an activist and certainly
not an activist who bravely would challenge federal prosecutors
who are used to having no accountability at all, least of all from
lowly citizens who might deem themselves "worthy" to question
the veracity and tactics of those who abuse the law.

Reynolds
had a husband, Sean, who had a serious health problem
, a congenital
connective tissue disorder that left him with debilitating pain
in his joints. Like so many others in the USA who suffer from severe
chronic pain, he was unable to receive adequate medical relief because
the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, not doctors, determine what is
a "legitimate medical purpose" for prescribing of opioids
for pain. However, Siobhan's husband finally found a physician,
Dr. William Hurwitz, a doctor in Northern Virginia, who was willing
to write prescriptions for higher doses of pain-killers.

The higher
doses worked, and for the first time in years, Siobhan's husband
was able to function at a much more normal level, but such satisfactory
results were anathema to the nation's drug warriors, and especially
to U.S. Attorney Paul McNulty, the Religious Right federal prosecutor
who might have publicly proclaimed his Christian beliefs, but did
not carry them to his line of work.

I have detailed
McNulty's
escapades in this earlier article
, including what he did to
Dr. Hurwitz, but the smarminess of what McNulty did bears repeating.
First, in violation of the Rules of Conduct both of the Federal
Bar and the Virginia Bar, McNulty made a number of inflammatory
pre-trial statements about Dr. Hurwitz, likening him to a drug "kingpin,"
and calling his office a "pill mill." The Beltway media,
of course, lapped up McNulty's missives, thus ensuring that it would
be almost impossible for Dr. Hurwitz to receive a fair trial. Radley
Balko writes
:

The judge
acknowledged that Hurwitz ran a legitimate practice and had likely
saved and improved the lives of countless people. His crime was
not recognizing that some of his patients were addicts and dealers.

McNulty got
his cherished conviction in federal court, but not before appealing
to the DEA to withdraw the agency's new policies on how doctors
should determine doses for pain-killers. (The Hurwitz defense was
going to use the new DEA policies to demonstrate he was operating
within government guidelines, something the "win-at-all-costs"
McNulty could not stand.)

(McNulty ultimately
used this and other such cases to rocket his career to the number
two position in the U.S. Department of Justice. He held that position
until he was forced to resign after
making "false statements" to Congress
about the firing
of a number of U.S. attorneys. Enjoying that legal double standard
reserved for federal officials, McNulty did not have to endure any
legal consequences for not telling the truth while under oath. Instead,
he went to an international
law firm
and now is a very wealthy man.)

Dr. Hurwitz,
his life and medical practice shattered, his family destroyed, and
his future in prison, was not the only victim of McNulty's viciousness.
(While in prison, Dr. Hurwitz developed an eye disorder, and because
of the lack of decent medical care provided for federal inmates,
he became blind in one eye.) Patients suffering from chronic pain
— people who at best McNulty considered to be "collateral damage"
— found themselves in a desperate situation. The Hurwitz prosecution
not only kept him from writing prescriptions, but other doctors
did not want to experience the same fate and refused to adequately
treat certain patients for pain.

One of the
side effects of chronic pain is high blood pressure, and ultimately
Siobhan's husband succumbed to the pain and other effects and died.
(When I introduced my wife to Siobhan, I said that Paul McNulty
killed her husband — and I meant every word.) Reynolds did not go
quietly, however, and started her organization, PRN, to help educate
doctors about pain medications and also to serve as a resource for
attorneys representing doctors being prosecuted for writing pain
prescriptions that the government claimed "served no medical
purpose."

When someone
challenges America's prosecutorial police state, the authorities
take notice, and Reynolds soon was in the feds' sights. Keep in
mind that Reynolds was trying to stay within the bounds of acceptable
medical care and to be an advocate for people suffering chronic
pain, but the feds were not interested in what might be true. Instead,
they only were (and are) interested in throwing as many people into
prison and destroying as many lives as possible, all while posing
as the "good guys."

In a recent
article, Lew Rockwell accurately depicted
what is going on with
federal criminal law in which government agents can target whom
they please and simply make the person disappear, all under "color
of law." He writes:

Today, every
single citizen, no matter how free he or she may feel in daily
life, is in reality a sitting duck. You can be made to disappear.
There is essentially no way you can escape once the feds sweep
you into their net. There is no justice. The total states of the
past used to pretend to have trial-based convictions. The total
state of the present doesn't even bother. It just puts a sack
over your head and takes you away.

Indeed, that
is what happened to William Hurwitz and a large number of other
doctors who committed the "crime" of believing their patients
when they said they were in pain. There were no kickbacks for them,
no under-the-table payments, no relations with drug dealers. And
none of that matters.

McNulty and
other federal prosecutors, with the help of federal judges who constantly
have ruled in favor of the feds ever since the Progressive Era,
have effectively destroyed the historical Anglo-American legal
doctrine of mens rea
, which is defined as: an element
of criminal responsibility, a guilty mind; a guilty or wrongful
purpose; a criminal intent. Guilty knowledge and wilfulness.
One can understand why a "win-at-all-costs" prosecutor
would want mens rea eviscerated, as the elimination of this
doctrine would mean that more individuals could be caught in the
snare of a prosecutorial witch hunt.

(One of the
ironies here is that although McNulty made sure that the mens
rea standard did not apply to people he prosecuted, he was given
a free pass after giving Congress false statements because he claimed
he had been "out of the loop" and did not realize that
some of his comments were false. In other words, "Mens rea
for me, but not for thee.")

To make matters
worse, federal prosecutors have agitated for years for Congress
and the courts to ensure that many laws are as vague as possible,
so that a person would not have clear boundaries within which to
act. For example, insider
trading law has been written in an intentionally-confusing manner

in which there is no "statutory definition" of insider
trading. This is a plus for prosecutors because they can target
people who never can be sure if they are breaking the law or not.

This means
that federal juries are left in the unenviable position of having
to determine whether or not the law was broken in the first place,
something jurors simply are no equipped to do. In the situation
of writing pain-medication prescriptions that, according to the
government, "have no medical purpose," there is no law
or no outright policy that is clear, which leaves doctors always
wondering if they are next to be prosecuted, and places prosecutors
in the driver's seat.

Federal prosecutors
are free to demonize doctors publicly, call them "drug dealers"
or operators of "pill mills," and their statements NEVER
are scrutinized in the mainstream media. The doctor is guilty even
before the trial begins, and even if a physician is acquitted, federal
agencies effectively can ruin the person's reputation and career.
Furthermore, as the federal Reign of Terror expands, doctors protect
themselves by writing as few pain prescriptions as they can in hopes
of avoiding the federal
"Eye of Sauron."

That thousands
of people are unable to gain relief is of no consequence to federal
officials, who are interested only in convicting as many people
as possible, which then is a boost to careerist prosecutors and
government agents. These are people who literally advance their
own pay, benefits, and power upon the backs of doctors and their
patients, and in the case of Siobhan's husband, the results were
fatal.

(Not that Paul
McNulty or any of his other prosecutorial minions cared what happened
to Sean Reynolds or his widow and their child. These are people
who enjoy inflicting trauma upon others and who love to exercise
their absolute powers, knowing that no matter how dishonest or outrageous
their conduct might be, they never have to fear being punished for
their own lawbreaking, as the Congress and the federal courts have
granted them "total immunity.")

Reynolds was
a godsend not only to patients and their families, but also to doctors
and their loved ones who were watching the Paul McNultys of the
world unjustly turn their lives upside down. She became involved
in a number of such cases elsewhere in the country, helping some
doctors to be acquitted and watching others lose at trial and go
to prison.

Helping people
defend themselves against federal prosecutors and vague laws is
a sure way to attract the enmity of the State, and after she became
involved in a case against a doctor and his wife in Kansas, the
State struck back. U.S. Attorney Tanya Treadway opened an “obstruction
of justice” investigation against Reynolds, destroying the Pain
Relief Network in the process. To make matters worse, Treadway
was able to convince the courts
(which don't need much convincing
when federal prosecutors wish to abuse innocent people) to make
the entire process secret, including any statements from Reynolds
herself.

Grand
jury secrecy is supposed to protect people being investigated, but
in this situation, Treadway was able to use secrecy to protect herself
and to destroy Reynolds, and the courts up to the U.S. Supreme Court
agreed that secrecy was fine with them, which a
former federal prosecutor says is an utter abuse of the grand jury
.
The tactics worked, and not only was Siobhan forced to shut down
the Pain Relief Network, but she also was facing the possibility
of contrived criminal charges up until the moment of her death.

There are many
things that we can learn from the life and death of Siobhan Reynolds.
Surely one of the worst things is that in the United States of America,
federal prosecutors nearly are invincible, not because of any good
that they do, but rather because they have become a law unto themselves.
We also have learned that the State bows to no one, and that right
and wrong are not standards at all because the State always is right,
even when it is wrong.

Yet, we also
can know that in our midst, there are people who are willing to
stand up and be counted, and Siobhan Reynolds was one of them. She
was a great person and her legacy goes on even though she no longer
walks among us. Hers is a legacy of integrity and courage and that
is the best lesson of all.

December
31, 2011

William
L. Anderson, Ph.D. [send him
mail
], teaches economics at Frostburg State University in Maryland,
and is an adjunct scholar of the Ludwig
von Mises Institute
. He
also is a consultant with American Economic Services. Visit
his blog.

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