Man sentenced to prison for Newberry Twp. friend's 2016 fatal OD
An Allentown-area man has been sentenced to prison for providing his friend with a fatal dose of what he believed to be heroin but was actually a powerful fentanyl derivative.
Jeffrey Michael Laughlin had been charged with the felony of drug delivery resulting in death, which carries a maximum possible sentence of 20 to 40 years in prison.
He appeared in York County Court on Friday, April 12, and pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, a first-degree misdemeanor, as well as to possession of a controlled substance and drug paraphernalia, according to court records.
As part of his negotiated plea agreement, the felony charge was dropped and he was sentenced to 2½ to five years in state prison, plus two years' probation, records state. His agreement with prosecutors calls for him to undergo a drug and alcohol evaluation and to comply with any recommended treatment.
Presiding Common Pleas Judge Michael E. Bortner ordered Laughlin to report to prison on May 7, according to court records.
Laughlin, 40, of Whitehall Township, provided drugs to his friend, 35-year-old Joshua Wildman of Newberry Township, who fatally overdosed on them in June 2016, according to Newberry Township Police.
Forgiven by victim's mom: The victim's mother, Lauri Wildman, submitted a written victim-impact statement, which was read aloud in court during Friday's hearing, senior deputy prosecutor Lewis Reagan said.
She wrote that she doesn't blame Laughlin and believes he was just being a friend to her son, Reagan confirmed.
He said his office previously consulted with Lauri Wildman and other family members about the proposed plea agreement.
"We're appreciative to the Wildman family for their victim-impact statement," Allentown-based defense attorney John Waldron said. "As Josh's mom stated, it's a tragedy. They were friends, and Jeff was a user also — an addict."
Laughlin used the same drugs Joshua Wildman used and got sick from them but survived, according to the attorneys.
"After this incident, (Laughlin) cooperated with law enforcement, and he himself successfully completed drug rehab and has been clean since Mr. Wildman's death," Reagan said.
Waldron said he believes prosecutors were as fair as they could be to Laughlin.
"He's going to serve his sentence and try to move on," Waldron said.
Case-by-case basis: Reagan told The York Dispatch that the purpose of the felony charge of drug delivery resulting in death has always been to target drug dealers, particularly those who sell large amounts of drugs to many people.
"In my opinion as a prosecutor, we need to differentiate those types of dealers from those who are either giving away drugs (to friends and fellow users) or selling small quantities of drugs to support their own habits," Reagan said.
"We examine each incident on a case-by-case basis."
The prosecutor said at the end of the day, "every single person in the chain" is liable to some degree or another when a death occurs.
"The main takeaway is, District Attorney (Dave) Sunday wants us to take a close look at each case and use our discretion as prosecutors to go after those who are the main suppliers of the poison," Reagan said.
The background: Joshua Wildman was found dead in his Newberry Township home on June 15, 2016, according to court documents.
When police searched his home, they found drug paraphernalia related to heroin use, which tested positive for furanyl-fentanyl.
Joshua Wildman's cause of death was furanyl-fentanyl toxicity, according to officials.
Detective Daniel Grimme, who filed the charges, said this was the first York County case of drug delivery resulting in death involving furanyl. Grimme said it is a derivative of fentanyl.
Court documents indicate Joshua Wildman texted Laughlin that the drugs were "wicked strong," adding that wasn't Laughlin's fault.
"I'm surprised this guy isnt killing people to be honest," Wildman texted, according to court documents. Police say Wildman was referring to Laughlin's dealer.
Laughlin replied that he told his dealer to warn customers.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.