A Lexington man is facing life behind bars for distributing a mixture of heroin and fentanyl that resulted in an overdose death. The chief federal law enforcement officer for the region says it’s a sentence that’s becoming more common the longer the drug problem persists.
"There are no winners in this situation. There are only losers," said Christopher Deaton, addressing reporters Monday after a federal judge formally sentenced 28-year-old Joshua Donald Ewing to life in prison for selling the lethal drug cocktail that killed his Deaton’s brother, Jeremy.
"If there's one thing that comes out of this, I hope it's a realization that drugs permeate all walks of life, all income groups. There's no rhyme or reason to who it affects," the mourning brother said.
The life sentence is normally a maximum in Schedule I and II drug cases, but Ewing’s prior drug conviction meant elevated it to the minimum punishment under federal law. Carlton Shier, acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky, says it’s not an everyday occurrence, but he’s seeing more cases resulting in the stiffer sentences.
"I think this is sort of a trend," he says. "This has been a tool that the United States Attorneys offices across the country have begun to use more to sort of attack this problem that's really sort of crippling everybody."
Deaton’s brother hopes it sends a strong message to drug sellers.
"Certainly the U.S. Attorney's Office here has a large hammer and the drug dealers need to understand that, if they're going to continue to peddle this poison, that they're very likely going to find themselves in a courtroom in the same situation," he added.
Kentucky is currently one of the top four states in the country for overdose deaths – with over 1,300 cases in 2015. Reports suggest 2016’s numbers will be similar.