Jury acquits convicted York-area drug dealer in Springetts overdose death

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch
About 2 to 3 milligrams of fentanyl, visually similar to 5 to 7 individual grains of table salt, are enough to cause a potentially fatal overdose. Carfentanil is 100 times more potent. (Drug Enforcement Administration/TNS)

A thrice-convicted York-area drug dealer has been cleared of charges he sold fentanyl and cocaine that contributed to the death of a Springettsbury Township man in 2016.

Jurors deliberated for about four hours on Friday, July 12, before finding Dominique T. Hightower not guilty of all charges against him, according to senior deputy prosecutor Lewis Reagan.

Hightower, 21, of South Queen Street in York City, had been charged with drug delivery resulting in death, drug dealing, involuntary manslaughter and using a computer to commit a crime. The drug delivery resulting in death charge is a first-degree felony punishable by a maximum of 20 to 40 years in state prison.

"It was a tough jury trial with a lot of circumstantial evidence," Reagan told The York Dispatch. "The jury found we were not able to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt."

Hightower had been accused of selling drugs to Ryan Mallory.

Mallory, 24, died of mixed-substance toxicity and pneumonia, according to the York County Coroner's Office.

He was found dead in his room at the Chateau Motel on Dec. 21, 2016, according to Springettsbury Township Police, who filed charges against Hightower in November 2017.

Defense attorney George Marros noted this was the second time Hightower stood trial in Mallory's death.

Hung jury in first trial: Hightower's first trial ended in a hung jury, after which a mistrial was declared March 11, according to court records.

Marros said prosecutors alleged Hightower sold Mallory drugs on Dec. 19 and 20, 2016, but that the only evidence they had to make the claim was the testimony of Mallory's girlfriend at the time. Marros said she was not a credible witness.

She initially told police neither she nor Mallory used drugs and, after calling 911 to help her unresponsive boyfriend, hid drugs, needles and syringes in their motel room so police wouldn't find them, although they did, Marros said.

Also, he said, prosecutors showed jurors text exchanges between Mallory and a drug dealer, alleging that dealer was Hightower.

But Marros said the phone supposedly used by Hightower was registered to another person, and that there was no evidence Hightower had access to the phone or the phone number.

"My client was arrested with five cellphones," Marros said, adding there was no evidence in any of the phones that would tie Hightower to Mallory's fatal overdose.

There was evidence Hightower provided his phone number to Mallory on Facebook, but it's not the number that was involved in the drug-buying text exchange with Mallory, according to Marros.

Mallory's girlfriend said they bought drugs from Hightower at a York City gas station and convenience store, Marros said, but said investigators waited about a month to collect video surveillance footage from the store.

By that time, the tape had been recorded over, he said.

Hightower was released from York County Prison Friday evening, according to his attorney.

Hightower pleaded guilty twice in 2016 and once in 2017 to dealing drugs in York County, according to online court records.

Ryan Mallory

About Mallory: Mallory loved the outdoors, according to his obituary — and he especially loved fishing.

His survivors include his son, siblings, parents and stepparents, his obituary states.

His Facebook page said he attended Dover Area High School and the York County School of Technology.

— Reach senior crime reporter Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @hLizScolforoYD.