Criminal Culpability In Overdose Deaths

If you’ve lived in Broome, Tioga, Chemung or Tompkins Counties for any amount of time, you’re likely aware of the opiate epidemic that has plagued the Southern Tier. While there are treatment options for offenders that want to break the surly shackles of addiction, tragically, some addicts have succumbed to the disease and have no second chance.
Obituaries reflect the devastating human toll of the opioid crisis, as families tell truth about lost loved ones. "We're not going to solve the problem by keeping quiet about it", said one local parent of their son that died as a result of a heroin overdose. Others are listening.
Given the spike in the loss of life, and the pervasiveness of the problem, newly minted District Attorney  Stephen Cornwell made narcotics a priority and his office now has an arm dedicated entirely to investigating overdose deaths. As he said in an interview we shared in an earlier post, Broome County's chief prosecutor promised to go after the dealers that sell opiates to someone that dies as a result of overdosing from the transaction.

It seems that his words were not hallow. The Broome County grand jury has recently upgraded a homicide charge against Richard B. Gaworecki, a Town of Union man accused of selling heroin that precipitated the untimely death of 26-year old Nicholas A. McKirnan. For more backdrop, read this PressConnects article.
At Noonan Brown Law, it's fairly routine to represent clients charged with the sale of controlled substances under Article 220 of the NY Penal Law. Less common is the charge of criminally negligent homicide when the defendant is alleged to sell narcotics to users that later die. While these types of convictions are rare in New York, the Broome County District Attorney and a growing chorus of other prosecutors throughout the State are attempting to set a precedent and send the message to narcotics traffickers that the DA's office will do everything within their power to curb the opiate crisis.
"There aren’t very many convictions for criminally negligent homicide for someone who sold drugs to somebody. It’s very unusual in New York,” said Cattaraugus County District Attorney Lori Rieman. “We wanted to set a precedent. ... Hopefully, it sends out a message to drug dealers that we’re going to do what we can to stop this.”
The criminal defense lawyers at Noonan Brown Law have seen a brisk number of drug-related cases cross our desk and we work tirelessly for reduction or dismissal. While the District Attorney's Office seems to open to alternative sentencing options and treatment under intense judicial supervision, by charging Richard B. Gaworecki with criminally negligent homicide, it has signaled little tolerance for those suspected of selling narcotics, much less those that foment a deadly overdose.
Given the public outcry against opiate abuse and the havoc it wreaks on families and the community, the seriousness of Southern Tier drug offenses have escalated. If you've been charged with a drug-related crime, the times make it more imperative than ever that you are represented by the attorneys at Noonan Brown Law.


Brett Noonan, Esq. and Chris Brown, Esq. The Binghamton Barristers

Noonan Brown Law is a full service law firm that represents clients across a wide spectrum of troublesome legal issues throughout the Southern Tier. For informed advice and to explore your legal options, contact us today.

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