EDITORIAL | “Pills & Suits,” a Justice Project Video


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In the last WestVirginiaVille.com Justice Project video of the 2020 election season, we turn to the race for West Virginia Attorney General. The current AG, Patrick Morrisey, is opposed by labor attorney Sam Brown Petsonk (see an earlier Justice Project video about Morrisey).

I recently began reading my former Charleston Gazette-Mail colleague Eric Eyre’s best-selling book, “DEATH IN MUD LICK: A Coal Country Fight Against the Drug Companies That Delivered the Opioid Epidemic.” Morrisey plays a key role in the genesis of the reporting that earned Eric a Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting.


“DEATH IN MUD LICK” by Eric Eyre

The video features an illustrated excerpt from the book’s Preface, which right out of the box, cites Morrisey’s entanglement with one of the big pharmaceutical companies at the heart of the opioid crisis, and the devastation it continues to spawn in families and communities across West Virginia and the country.


EXCERPT from “DEATH IN MUD LICK”
(as seen in video)


Patrick Morrisey. | WestVirginiaVille.com illustration

“AS A STATEHOUSE REPORTER
with the Charleston Gazette-Mail,
I stumbled into [a] legal battle
in 2013, uncovering secrets and
lies that set up a collision course
with three of America’s largest
corporations.

“That summer, I received a tip that
Cardinal Health had helped pay for
the inaugural party of West Virginia’s
newly elected attorney general,
Patrick Morrisey.

“Cardinal’s lawyer had headed
Morrisey’s campaign transition team,
and Morrisey’s wife had lobbied for
Cardinal in Washington DC,
pocketing millions of dollars for her
K Street firm.



“The previous attorney general—a
twenty-year incumbent—had sued
Cardinal on behalf of the citizens of
West Virginia.

“Now, Morrisey, after Cardinal’s top
executives helped bankroll his
campaign, was overseeing the suit;
lawyers close to the case contended
he was trying to sabotage it.



“Morrisey insisted he had stepped
aside from the lawsuit, but I
unearthed letters showing he had
met privately with Cardinal lawyers
about it, and court documents and
emails revealed he was giving staff
“specific instructions” on how to
handle the suit.

“In retaliation, Morrisey set out to
derail my investigation with one of
his own—against my employer, a
tenacious small newspaper in
financial peril. His benefactors were
counting on him to shut the door.



“But after the paper successfully
fought to to unseal court documents
that the drug distributors wanted to
hide from the public, the attorney
general handed over previously
confidential records that showed the
companies’ insidious pursuit of
profits.

“Along the way, I wrote hundreds of
stories about the devastation and
misery that opioids had inflicted
upon our state.”

~ Eric Eyre


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