No prison for man in DOC drug ring
Published: Thursday, December 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, December 1, 2005 at 12:52 a.m.
The importance that Oscar Shipley has played in at least one federal investigation involving the Florida Department of Corrections was underscored Wednesday morning when a prosecutor took a position normally held by defense attorneys.
Assistant U.S. attorney Don Pashayan successfully argued against sending Shipley to prison for his part in a steroid distribution ring.
Shipley, 34, who worked for the prison system for 13 years before being charged in the steroid case, was facing up to five years in prison under the federal sentencing guidelines. Instead, after listening to Pashayan's argument against prison time, U.S. District Court Judge Henry Lee Adams Jr. ordered Shipley to serve two years of probation, then warned Shipley he would wind up in prison if he violated probation.
Shipley was among the five men - four had worked in state prisons - who were charged with various drug crimes for their part in importing steroids into North Florida from Egypt between May 2002 and May 2004 and distributing steroids and other drugs to correctional officers and others. Three who have already been sentenced in the case were ordered to serve probation of two years or less. A fourth man had pleaded guilty. Shipley pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute steroids in July.
During Shipley's sentencing hearing Wednesday, Pashayan urged Judge Adams to sentence Shipley to probation because it was similar to the other defendants' sentences and because Shipley had been helpful and cooperative with investigators.
Shipley's plea agreement required him to cooperate before and after being sentenced.
Adams was skeptical about Shipley's ability to serve a sentence anywhere other than behind bars. The judge referred several times to Shipley violating his pre-sentence release conditions. Shipley was arrested in September for talking to a co-defendant in the case after being specifically ordered not to have contact with any co-defendant. He has been held in the Bradford County and then Duval County jails until his Wednesday morning hearing.
"He's been one of the worst pre-trial releases," Adams told Pashayan. "He couldn't even survive 60 days of pre-trial release. How's he going to make two years of probation?"
Shipley, wearing shackles and bright orange prison clothing, apologized to the judge for his behavior.
"Two months in jail have given me a different look at things," Shipley said. "I'm sorry for the trouble I have cause for my family and for embarrassing the Department of Corrections and Mr. Crosby," referring to Department of Corrections secretary James Crosby.
Shipley is among several prison workers who have brought negative attention to the prison system over the past year. In addition to those arrested in connection with the federal drug case with Shipley, some former prison workers wound up in handcuffs as the result of bar fights. One officers committed suicide after being named in a sexual assault investigation. Three ranking employees were charged in an ongoing investigation into a beating at a softball banquet.
The steady stream of incidents in which prison employees have been named suspects of violent or self-destructive behavior prompted department secretary James Crosby to establish a new policy. Effective in mid November, Crosby told his top staff to begin spreading the word that employees arrested for an "act of aggression" would automatically be place on leave while the department investigates the arrest. Crosby also told reporters in mid-November that additional policy changes will be issued soon that will cover other areas of employee misconduct on and off the job.
Karen Voyles can be reached at (352) 486-5058 or email@example.com.
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