A Buffalo man who sold Ecstasy believed to have killed a user at a Randalls Island concert in 2013 got no jail time at his sentencing in federal court in Manhattan on Friday, despite an impassioned plea from the father of the dead man.
Patrick Morgan, 24, was sentenced to 8 months of home confinement, 3 years of probation and 500 hours of community service by U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos, who said that Morgan's role wasn't critical even though he provided the drugs taken by Jeffrey Russ.
"Although Mr. Morgan played a role in the death of Russ, it was incidental and it was minimal," Ramos said. The volume of drugs Morgan sold was so small it is not normally prosecuted, the judge noted, and two friends who bought the drugs with Russ as well as the person who sold it to Morgan were not charged.
Russ, 23, of Rochester, had a seizure at the Electric Zoo concert after being given drugs supplied by Morgan. When death "results from" an illegal drug sale, federal law permits a charge that carries a mandatory minimum 20-year sentence, but U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara did not charge Morgan under that law.
John Russ, the father of the victim, complained in an emotional plea at the sentencing that he never got an explanation about why no one was paying for his son's death. "I had a son, I no longer do," Russ said. ". . . Where's the integrity? Where's the justice for my family and my son?
"It's as if he never existed and never mattered," Russ added. "There will be absolutely no accountability for his death. . . . I am a broken and sad man. My son is gone. I can't get a new one."
Russ, assuming that Morgan would get at least some jail time -- federal sentencing guidelines called for him to get 10 to 16 months after pleading guilty to a drug distribution conspiracy -- begged him to write from jail about exactly what had happened.
But Morgan said not a word about Russ in his plea to Ramos, and did not respond to the father's request.
He told the judge he had sold drugs because he was "immature," but he has now "turned my life around" by working for charities, trying to finish his college degree, and working.
"Please spare me from jail and allow me to continue to build the rest of my life in a positive way," he said.
Bharara's office, which did ask for Morgan to get jail time, has not explained why it did not charge Morgan with causing Russ' death. Morgan's defense lawyer says the link has never been proven in court and other factors may have contributed to the death.
In a news release issued at the time of Morgan's guilty plea in December, Bharara said he was "committed to aggressively pursuing and prosecuting those who peddle this extremely dangerous drug."