A Greenport man who had been acquitted of manslaughter in a fatal overdose case was sentenced to 2 to 4 years in prison Tuesday for his conviction on a lesser charge.
Suffolk County Court Judge Anthony Senft found Lashawn Lawrence, 35, guilty last month of fourth-degree conspiracy at a bench trial that centered around the death of a Riverhead man who overdosed on heroin laced with fentanyl in September 2018.
Mr. Lawrence’s attorney, Carl Irace of East Hampton, had asked the judge for a lesser sentence, saying the case against him was “largely circumstantial.”
But at Tuesday’s sentencing Judge Senft said he believed Mr. Lawrence, who prosecutors said has six prior felony convictions, showed a “lack of remorse.” The judge cited a quote from Mr. Lawrence contained in a probation report that read, “I’m innocent. I got f—ed.”
The fourth-degree conspiracy charge carried a maximum penalty of just four years, whereas the manslaughter charge brought penalties of up to 15 years.
The case was determined entirely by the judge, at Mr. Lawrence’s request, so there was no jury involved. The judge reached his verdict on Sept. 12.
The charges related to the death of Lawrence Yaccarino of Riverhead, who had overdosed two other times that month, but was revived, according to testimony during the trial.
At least four other people who allegedly bought drugs from Mr. Lawrence also overdosed during the same time period as Mr. Yaccarino, but were revived, according to assistant district attorney Tanya Rickoff.
The case was only the third time that manslaughter charges were brought against alleged drug dealers in connection with a fatality, according to officials.
Our reporter talks about the case
Mr. Lawrence was originally indicted in March along with two other men that prosecutors said were involved in a drug ring that sold heroin laced with fentanyl, a potentially deadly drug that is being used more frequently because it is cheaper and more potent.
His two co-conspirators, John Brophy, 49, of Riverhead, and Bryan Hale, 52, of Flanders, both pleaded guilty within the past month.
Mr. Hale pleaded guilty to a top charge of attempted third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance, and Mr. Brophy pleaded guilty to a top charge of second-degree manslaughter as well as third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance. He had been facing a 10-count indictment.
Mr. Brophy was previously sentenced to 4 to 6 years. Mr. Hale is expected to be sentenced Friday.
Ms. Rickoff said in court that Mr. Lawrence was the ring-leader and Mr. Brophy and Mr. Hale sold drugs for him, often out of Mr. Hale’s auto repair shop on Lincoln Street in Riverhead.
But Mr. Irace argued the prosecution’s case against Mr. Lawrence was built on text messages between him and Mr. Brophy regarding potential drug sales and often the messages used nicknames for people and drugs.
In several instances, a drug officer on the witness stand would have to interpret for prosecutors what the text message meant.
“It’s all circumstantial evidence,” Mr. Irace said at trial. He said none of the witnesses testified to actually seeing Mr. Lawrence making a drug deal.
Caption: Mr. Lawrence at trial last month. (Credit: James Carbone/Newsday pool photo)