ST. PETERSBURG — A St. Petersburg defense attorney and former prosecutor who spoke out against prescription drug abuse was arrested on a charge that he took prescription pain pills from a client as payment, authorities said.
Aaron J. Slavin and his wife, Eryn L. Slavin, both 32, were arrested Wednesday night at his Largo law office on a felony charge of trafficking oxycodone or a similar drug.
They are accused of accepting 251 30-milligram pills "to satisfy a debt owed by a confidential informant," according to an arrest report.
The arrest was part of an undercover operation by the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.
"We received a tip back in June that the suspect would be willing to accept a controlled substance as a form of payment," said Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Cecilia Barreda.
Slavin, now a private defense attorney, previously worked as a prosecutor for the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office, but left in July 2008, said Pinellas Pasco Chief Assistant State Attorney Bruce Bartlett.
While there, Slavin built a reputation as an aggressive prosecutor, handling complex gang cases.
After hearing news of Slavin's arrest, Bartlett said: "You could have knocked me over with a feather."
The Slavins were released from the Pinellas County Jail on bail early Thursday morning.
Reached at his law firm late Thursday morning, Slavin declined to comment.
According to a biography on his law practice website, Slavin graduated with a bachelor's degree from the University of Maryland College Park and earned his law degree from the University of Miami School of Law.
Among other criminal charges, Slavin defends clients accused of drug trafficking and has "handled thousands of drug cases" as a prosecutor, the site advertised.
Clients facing drug trafficking charges "are likely facing a mandatory/minimum prison sentence as well as a hefty fine," he says on the site, adding an "experienced criminal defense attorney" can sometimes negotiate with prosecutors to have the charge reduced.
The site contains more than a dozen testimonials that describe Slavin as "professional," "focused" and "trustworthy."
A letter attributed to the family of Andrew Garcia, who was killed by a drunken driver, said Slavin showed compassion, "integrity, strength (and) great character" during the two years he prepared to prosecute the driver.
But Clearwater attorney George Tragos, a fixture in Pinellas' criminal courthouse who defended the man accused of killing Garcia in the June 2006 accident, said he formed a different impression of Slavin.
"As a prosecutor, he lacked a capacity for mercy," Tragos said. "But I hate to see any attorney involved in this type of activity and I presume him to be innocent."
In a June article Slavin wrote for a Web-based publication, examiner.com, he referenced a recent St. Petersburg Times article about a local high school student who died after overdosing on oxycodone and alprazolam.
"Unfortunately," he wrote, "more people are going to die of prescription drug overdoses before we find a solution to this epidemic."
Also that month, Slavin appeared on the Prescription Addiction Radio Show on Talk Radio 860 AM — WGUL.
Slavin said then that about 50 percent of his business comes from people arrested on drug charges.
He explained what would warrant a drug trafficking charge and mentioned that "the most popular ones that people are buying and selling and using are the 30 milligrams (of OxyContin), which are the blue ones, and it ranges anywhere between 22 and 25 pills to get to that trafficking level."
"It's an enormous problem throughout the Tampa Bay area," he said.
Times staff writer Curtis Krueger contributed to this report.