Manslaughter charges thrown out in fatal West York OD case

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch
  • Jermaine Johnson and Crystal Ertz are still charged with reckless endangerment.

A West York couple's involuntary manslaughter charges have been thrown out.

Jermaine Johnson and Crystal Ertz, both 40 and of the 1100 block of West King Street, are still facing trial on second-degree misdemeanor charges of reckless endangerment, although the attorney representing Ertz argues no crime was committed.

After listening to evidence at the couple's preliminary hearing Friday, District Judge Jennifer Clancy threw out the involuntary manslaughter charges against them, according to court records.

She also lowered their bail amounts from $20,000 each to $5,000 each, court records state.

West York couple charged in friend’s overdose death

On Monday afternoon, a prison official said bail for Johnson and Ertz had been posted, and both were expected to be released after meeting with probation officers regarding bail conditions.

They are accused in the Jan. 14 overdose death of Brandon Duffey, 24, of York.

Close friends: West York Police say Duffey and Johnson were close friends for years and considered each other family.

On Jan. 13, Duffey was to have bought drugs from a new source and taken them to the home of Johnson and Ertz, police allege.

He later passed out in their home, and the couple was unable to rouse him, charging documents state.

Jermaine Johnson

Police allege Johnson and Ertz knew Duffey was on heroin.

Eventually, after several hours, the couple called 911, according to police. Duffey was rushed to York Hospital, where he died the next day after being taken off life-support, police said.

'No crime': But defense attorney George Margetas, who represents Ertz, said neither Ertz nor Johnson should be facing any charges.

"There was no crime committed here," he said. "It's unfortunate a young man is dead ... and I understand everyone wants to find someone to blame. But neither one of them did anything to cause his death."

Neither sold him or provided him with drugs, he noted.

Also, Duffey came by unannounced, according to Margetas. And during the hours when police allege Duffey was unresponsive, he actually was moving and making noises, as if he was drunk, the attorney said.

"It wasn't until he was entirely unresponsive" that the couple realized Duffey was in medical distress, he said.

Crystal Ertz

Sleeping it off? "I don't think in a million years that they thought he was dying," Margetas said, adding Johnson and Ertz believed they were giving Duffey a safe place to "sleep it off."

"They didn't know he was actively high on heroin at the time," the attorney said.

Public defender Joshua Neiderhiser, who represents Johnson, did not return a phone message seeking comment.

Deputy prosecutor Kim Kipnis has declined comment until the case is resolved, according to Kyle King, spokesman for the York County District Attorney's Office.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.