De­fen­dant in heroin case: ‘I’m not a mon­ster’

De­spite plea for le­niency, he gets jail time, re­buke from judge

The Southern Berks News - - LOCAL NEWS - By Michael P. Rel­la­han mrel­la­han@21st-cen­tu­ry­ @Ch­escoCourtNews on Twit­ter

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.

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