When a Palm Beach County judge in 2016 sentenced a 59-year-old suburban Delray Beach doctor to 25 years in prison on drug trafficking charges, his attorneys said it was tantamount to a life sentence.
On Wednesday, an appeals court threw out the sentence, saying Circuit Judge Jack Cox offered no justification for refusing to hand Dr. Barry Schultz a real life sentence.
In an unusual appeal, the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office successfully argued that Cox should have explained why he ignored rules that required him to hand Schultz multiple life sentences after the internist was convicted of 55 counts of drug trafficking.
Rejecting prosecutors’ request to impose 55 concurrent life terms, Cox instead sentenced Schultz to 25 years on each count and allowed the sentences to be served at the same time. Cox retired in 2016.
In ordering Schultz to be resentenced, the 4th District Court of Appeal said Cox failed to explain why Schultz deserved a break after being convicted of prescribing as many as 20,000 pills of high-powered narcotics to patients who came to his office complaining of pain. “Any sentence imposed below the lowest permissible sentence must be explained in writing by the trial court judge,” the West Palm Beach court wrote, quoting state law.
After he was sentenced for drug trafficking, Schultz pleaded guilty to manslaughter in connection with a patient’s overdose death. He was sentenced to five years in prison but Cox allowed that to sentence to be served concurrently with the 25-year term he was already serving.
Now 61, Schultz is scheduled to be released from Florida State Prison in Raiford in 2040, state records show. He’ll be 83 years old.