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'Paxil' Defense Keeps Exec Out Of Jail

Paxil tablets in box and bottle, antidepressant medication, photo
AP
A federal judge agreed with a Tampa executive's claim that the antidepressant Paxil prompted him to embezzle $1.8 million from a former employer.

U.S. District Judge James Moody Jr. sentenced Patrick Henry Stewart, 42, to a year of home confinement and five years' probation.

Moody granted the reduced sentence Monday in part because defense lawyers produced studies and experts that said Paxil sometimes triggers arrogant and uncontrollable behavior in people with bipolar disorder. Stewart was recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Prosecutors had recommended at least 3½ years in prison as part of a plea agreement.

"We believe the wrong message was sent to our employees, our shareholders and the public with this sentence," said Beth Walters, a spokeswoman for Stewart's former employer, Jabil Circuit, a contract manufacturer of printed circuit boards. "We will move on knowing that Pat Stewart is a convicted felon."

Stewart agreed in August to plead guilty to wire fraud charges in exchange for a lighter sentence. Last week, his lawyers asked for more lenience based on the Paxil evidence.

Stewart declined to comment after Monday's hearing.

"It's a good day at our house," said his wife, Leslie.

Paxil's box carries a warning that anyone using the drug should be monitored for signs of agitation, irritability, suicidal thoughts or other unusual changes in behavior. It also warns that any psychoactive drug may impair judgment or thinking. Paxil is manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline.