Defendant in heroin case: ‘I’m not a monster’
Despite plea for leniency, he gets jail time, rebuke from judge
WEST CHESTER » A Berks County man who was found guilty of having supplied his then-girlfriend with heroin that she injected into her daughter, and who also used heroin with the teenager’s boyfriend, drew a prison sentence and a rebuke from the judge who oversaw his case.
“I’ve been doing this since 1971,” said Chester County Court Senior Judge Thomas Gavin, referring to his involvement in criminal cases involving drug users as a prosecutor and judge. “The sad thing is that we have the same drug problem we had in 1971. We have an epidemic of a drug problem in this country, and everyone should be concerned about it.
But as to the case of defendant Jameson C. Burn, who has been addicted to heroin for years and in and out of treatment, Gavin was ambivalent. “I’ve come to the point in sentencing that I’m just taking you off he street. I’m not solving your drug problem.”
Gavin sentenced Burn, 35, of Birdsboro, to seven to 14 years in state prison, plus an additional five years of consecutive probation. The judge noted that the sentence will likely be in addition to jail time the state Parole Board is expected to impose on Burn for a previous conviction.
Burn, who has a criminal history dating back to 2001 and spent 3½ years in state prison for a 2010 assault case in Chester County, begged Gavin to show him leniency. He has maintained that he is not guilty of the crimes he was charged with, although he declined to testify at his trial last month. His attorney, Stuart Crichton of West Chester, told Gavin his client would likely appeal his conviction.
“I don’t want to go to jail for something I didn’t do,” said a tearful Burn. “I’ve made a lot of bad choices, but hurting kids is not one of them. On paper, I look like a monster, but I’m not.”
Crichton reminded Gavin that evidence in the case showed that Burn’s girlfriend, Jessica Lynn Riffey was the head of the household that included her then14-year-old daughter, and that Riffey had testified that she had helped inject her daughter with heroin.
But in a sentencing memorandum, Assistant District Attorney Megan King of the D.A.’s Child Abuse Unit pointed out that the girl and her boyfriend both testified at trial that Burn had brought the heroin into the home, had given it to Riffey to use, had pressured the girl’s 16-year-old boyfriend to use heroin, and had snorted the drug with them and injected the pair.
King said that heroin remains a toxic stain on the Chester County community, responsible for multiple deaths.
“It’s a deadly drug, your honor,” she told Gavin, noting it was Burn who brought the drugs into Riffey’s home.
In May 2016, Riffey pleaded guilty to charges of endangering the welfare of children, possession with intent to deliver, and criminal conspiracy, and was sentenced to serve four and a half to 10 years
in state prison. She is being housed at the State Correctional Institution at Cambridge Springs. Her daughter and the other teen have moved on, King said, but remained devastated by the experience.
Riffey was arrested by West Caln police and Chester County Detectives in October 2015. Authorities said Riffey’s daughter told investigators that her mother had used the drawstring from a hooded sweatshirt to make her veins pop out so as to better inject the heroin with a syringe that was supplied by Burn.
Burn, who checked himself into a psychiatric facility in Berks County at the time of Riffey’s arrest, was a fugitive for more than a year after the matter was uncovered. He was eventually arrested in New Jersey in November.
According to police accounts at the time, West Caln police responded to Riffey’s home on Telegraph Road for a well-being check. There they found the two teenagers.
In interviews with county Detectives Gerald Davis and James Ciliberto, both with the county’s Child Abuse Unit, the teenagers said that Burn had given the heroin to Riffey. At times, the two would inhale the drug from the top of a table located at the foot of the bed in Riffey’s bedroom, according to the arrest affidavit. Other times, Riffey would inject the heroin directly into the teenagers’ arms.
Her daughter said that the injections had occurred two or three times in September. The youth said that Riffey would “cook” the heroin in a spoon with water, then draw the liquid into a syringe that Burn had purchased at a nearby Walmart. The youth said Riffey had injected him twice. The boy also said he had watched Burn — a 33-year-old ex-convict who had been released from state prison after serving a three and a half to eightyear sentence for assault — shoot heroin himself.
When interviewed by Davis and Fries, Riffey admitted to administering heroin to both the teenagers, sometime between July and September, according to the arrest affidavit.
Jameson Burn, left, and Jessica Lynn Riffey, are both looking at jail time on drug charges.