A

22-year-old man who set off a rash of overdoses last year in West Virginia was sentenced by a federal judge Monday to more than 18 years in prison, concluding a case that drew national attention and focused wider attention on the danger of synthetic opioids.

Bruce Griggs, of Akron, Ohio, who faced a maximum sentence of 20 years, had reached a plea agreement with prosecutors after being arrested in connection with the episode, during which 26 people were reported to have overdosed within a few hours in the city of Huntington. Griggs acknowledged distributing heroin — later found to have been laced with synthetics including fentanyl and carfentanil — and causing “multiple” overdoses.

The exact sentence was 220 months, or 18 years and 4 months. He was sentenced in Huntington.

advertisement

Ahead of the sentencing, Griggs’s family had appealed to Judge Robert Chambers for leniency, saying that Griggs was a devoted family man with three young children who had helped his own single mom raise his three younger siblings. They said he began dealing drugs because he fell in with the wrong crowd.

His attorney, Carl Hostler, contended Griggs never intended to hurt anyone and was unaware that the heroin he was dealing contained fentanyl and carfentanil. Hostler argued that the real culprit in the overdoses was the person who mixed the drugs, whose identity Griggs does not know.

Giving Griggs a strict sentence “is not going to alter supply and demand” for heroin or make any dent in the opioid epidemic, Hostler wrote in court documents.

But some in Huntington, including family members of people who overdosed, called for the maximum sentence, noting that whatever Griggs’s intentions, he still threatened the lives of dozens of people.

Just hours after Griggs sold drugs near a public housing complex in Huntington last August, 26 people overdosed, all of whom survived. But in the following days, authorities reported two fatal overdoses and initially said they were investigating if they were connected.

As part of a deal with prosecutors, Griggs pleaded guilty to a charge of heroin distribution. The plea agreement did not mention the fatal overdoses.

Sign up to our Daily Recap newsletter

Please enter a valid email address.

Leave a Comment

Please enter your name.
Please enter a comment.

  • We’re all guilty.
    Next time you pay your taxes, remember that.

    (Estimated Savings and Added Revenue from Drug Legalization) “This report estimates that legalizing drugs would save roughly $41.3 billion per year in government expenditure on enforcement of prohibition. Of these savings, $25.7 billion would accrue to state and local governments, while $15.6 billion would accrue to the federal government. Approximately $8.7 billion of the savings would result from legalization of marijuana and $32.6 billion from legalization of other drugs.
    “The report also estimates that drug legalization would yield tax revenue of $46.7 billion annually, assuming legal drugs were taxed at rates comparable to those on alcohol and tobacco. Approximately $8.7 billion of this revenue would result from legalization of marijuana and $38.0 billion from legalization of other drugs.”

    Source: Miron, Jeffey A., and Waldock, Katherine, “The Budgetary Impact of Ending Drug Prohibition,” The Cato Institute (Washington, DC: Cato Institute, 2010).
    http://www.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/pubs/pdf/DrugProhibitionWP.pdf
    – See more at: http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/Economics#sthash.A54OlUTx.dpuf

    • Regardless the millions of legit pain patients are still feeling the wrath of this and others like it.
      This had nothing to do with prescription opioids. Cancel all prescriptions, meanwhile more heroin gets sold all over the country. Sounds like a drug dealers dream come true. Supply and demand. More problems, more deaths, there will be an epidemic……

Recommended Stories

Sign up for our
Daily Recap newsletter

A roundup of STAT’s top stories of the day in science and medicine — delivered straight to your inbox every weekday afternoon.