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Wisconsin Dells man sentenced for friend's overdose death

Although it's often been said that we're all responsible for our own actions, prosecutors and judges don't always see things that way when it comes to fatal drug overdoses. A Wisconsin Dells man was sentenced this week to four years in prison for the death of a Reedsburg, Wisconsin, man in 2010.

Calling the man's death a tragedy, the judge said at the sentencing hearing that when you use illegal drugs, "you become a monster. You cause death and you cause grief." Stopping short of absolving the overdose victim of his own choices, the judge said he hoped the convicted man would get the kind of treatment that would break his own drug addiction.

The convicted man pleaded no contest in July to felony delivery of heroin, with felony charges of first-degree reckless homicide by delivery of drugs as party to a crime and manufacture/delivery of cocaine taken into account by the judge during sentencing. Authorities said the man mixed the drugs and injected them into his friend, whose autopsy results indicated that a combination of drugs, including cocaine and heroin, caused his death.

The man said he knew all too well the dangers of heroin as an addict who has lost other friends to the drug in the past. He said he wished he'd been stronger for the sake of the victim in this case. Both the victim's and the convicted man's parents spoke at his hearing about how illegal drugs had destroyed their families. "Heroin addiction isn't something you can just shake off," the convict's mother said. "If you have no insurance, there is no help. And honestly ... heroin addicts don't have insurance. They can't afford it."

Part of what makes this case interesting is the suggestion that the overdose victim was controlled by his addiction to drugs (allowing his friend to inject them) more than his own free will. While that may be true, the court also seems to suggest that another addict should have acted more responsibly. Instead, the addict who survived will pay his own price with a prison sentence.

Source: Wisconsin Dells Events, "Dells man gets four years in overdose death," Shannon Green, Feb. 7, 2012 

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