Man sen­tenced for fen­tanyl af­ter over­dose death

Ac­quit­ted of mur­der, Black­iston could be re­leased in about a year

The Enterprise - - Front Page - By JOHN WHAR­TON jwhar­ton@somd­

A Lex­ing­ton Park man, con­victed last win­ter of the dis­tri­bu­tion of a syn­thetic opi­oid, re­turned to court Wed­nes­day to re­ceive his sen­tence for the charge that arose from an over­dose death in­ves­ti­ga­tion in the spring of 2017 at a hous­ing area off Wil­lows Road.

Mar­cell Davon Black­iston, now 32, was ac-

quit­ted of sec­ond-de­gree “de­praved heart” mur­der and in­vol­un­tary man­slaugh­ter in the death of 27-year-old DeAnna Lynn Howeth.

Black­iston’s con­vic­tions in the case on counts of reck­less en­dan­ger­ment and the dis­tri­bu­tion of heroin were merged into the con­vic­tion for the dis­tri­bu­tion of fen­tanyl, which at that time of the crime car­ried a max­i­mum penalty of 20 years in pris-

on. A sen­tenc­ing guide­lines re­port rec­om­mended a penalty for Black­iston of seven to 14 years in prison, and at this week’s court pro­ceed­ing, a judge sen­tenced Black­iston to 12 years in prison, sus­pended that sen­tence to eight years in cus­tody, told him he might be el­i­gi­ble for pa­role af­ter serv­ing 25 per­cent of the term, and gave him credit for 328

days al­ready served in pre­trial cus­tody.

He could be re­leased from prison in about one year, based on the sen­tence.

Black­iston was one of six peo­ple in­dicted last summer on mur­der charges aris­ing from over­dose in­ves­ti­ga­tions, a tac­tic launched by St. Mary’s po­lice and prose­cu­tors that was pre­sented at a press con­fer­ence held at the county court­house in Leonard­town. All but one of the cases have been re­solved through pleas or con­vic­tions on

lesser homi­cide charges or drug of­fenses, and a trial of the last re­main­ing case has been post­poned in the wake of an ap­peals court’s rul­ing that over­turned a homi­cide con­vic­tion from a drug over­dose death in an­other ju­ris­dic­tion.

St. Mary’s State’s At­tor­ney Richard Fritz (R) ar­gued this week in court that drug deal­ers know the dan­ger­ous­ness of the syn­thetic opi­oids they mix into the drugs they sell. “It’s al­most like giv­ing candy to a baby,” the pros­e­cu­tor said, “and

telling them to walk down the hall with­out lick­ing it. They can’t make it.”

Matthew Con­nell, Black­iston’s pub­lic de­fender, said there was no ev­i­dence that the pres­ence of fen­tanyl in the drugs was known by any­one in­volved in the trans­ac­tion, in­clud­ing his client, or a wit­ness who died of an over­dose shortly af­ter the trial and while Black­iston was in jail. The judge was told that 12 over­dose deaths have oc­curred in St. Mary’s this year.

Con­nell said of the pros- ecu­to­rial tac­tic, “It’s not going to achieve the re­sult that’s de­sired.”

Black­iston said to the judge, “I’ve strug­gled with ad­dic­tion my­self. I can’t fault no­body else.”

St. Mary’s Cir­cuit Judge David W. Dens­ford said of Black­iston’s fu­ture, “It’s more in your hands than any­one else’s,” and the judge noted Black­iston’s role in an­other mat­ter not de­tailed in court. “They trusted you enough to tes­tify,” the judge said, “which ap­par­ently you did.”


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