A Ronkonkoma man who became the first person in New York State to be convicted of homicide for killing a person by selling him drugs was sentenced Tuesday in Suffolk County Court in Riverhead to 4 to 6 years in prison.
James Fava, 30, who had pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter and admitted he sold the opioid fentanyl to Bryan Gallagher, 28, of Bohemia, even though Fava knew that it was more potent than anything Gallagher had ever used and it could kill him.
Although the Gallagher family asked state Supreme Court Justice William Condon to impose the maximum sentence, which is 5 to 15 years for second-degree manslaughter, the judge handed out the punishment he promised Fava under a plea agreement worked out between the Suffolk County district attorney’s office and Fava’s attorney, and approved by Condon.
“Think of the damage James Fava has brought on our lives,” Gallagher’s father, Mike Gallagher, told Condon before sentencing. “Think of never hearing your child’s voice, or feeling the warmth of his embrace or a simple kiss on the cheek, hearing his laughter or simply knowing he is near,”
Fava, who also pleaded guilty to third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance, was sentenced to 4 years for that crime, and 2 to 6 years for second-degree manslaughter. The sentences are to run concurrently.
Gallagher was one of 349 people who died of opioid overdoses in Suffolk in 2016, according to records.
Spurred by an opioid crises that is gripping Long Island and countless communities across the nation, law enforcement officials have begun to file stiffer criminal charges against alleged drug traffickers, holding them directly accountable for causing their customers to die of overdoses.
In August 2016, Roxy Headley Jr. of Mastic Beach became the first alleged drug dealer charged with second-degree manslaughter in New York State, a few months after prosecutors said he sold a lethal dose of heroin and fentanyl to a North Babylon man. Headley is awaiting trial.
Fava, who was arrested in December 2016, was the second defendant in Suffolk County to be charged with second-degree manslaughter for selling fentanyl to Gallagher who then overdosed.
“This is an individual who sold drugs to multiple customers. He made deliberate decisions, day in and day out, to make money off death, and that’s the type of behavior that we can deter by holding people accountable,” said Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini, who came to the sentencing and afterward vowed to continue the policy set by his predecessor.
Fava, who Condon said had been using drugs since he was 15, apologized to the Gallagher family, saying he missed his friend.
“It’s something I have to live with,” Fava said.
As for the Gallaghers, each and every day the family lives with the pain Fava had thrust into their lives, Mike Gallagher said.
Holidays and other joyous occasions, events he said the family used to look forward to, have become affairs they struggle to get through. At these gatherings, an empty chair that his son once occupied became a reminder of their loss.
For a parent to lose a child is difficult, Mike Gallagher said.
“Their joy is our joy. Their dreams are our dreams. Their pain is our pain. Their death is our death,” he said in court.
More needs to be done to combat the opioid epidemic that is taking too many young lives, Condon said.
“I hope one day your family will be able to find peace,” he told Gallagher.