In a first for New York State, prosecutors in Suffolk have charged a Mastic man with second-degree manslaughter, claiming that his drug dealing led directly to a fatal overdose.
Roxy Headley Jr., 29, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to an indictment also charging him with operating as a major drug trafficker, first-degree robbery, second-degree assault, second-degree conspiracy and other crimes.
Although manslaughter is one of the lesser charges Headley faces, District Attorney Thomas Spota and police Commissioner Timothy Sini said it sends an important message to all drug dealers in Suffolk County, which is in the midst of an opiate epidemic.
“This is an extraordinary charge for an extraordinary drug dealer,” Sini said.
Spota said Headley and other members of his drug ring, who were also indicted, sold a kilogram of heroin and fentanyl a week, with a street value of about $1 million.
Headley, who has a previous felony conviction for drug dealing, was charged last month with operating as a major trafficker, second-degree conspiracy and weapons possession. The robbery and assault charges are the result of an incident in which he shot a rival drug dealer and stole his cellphone, Spota said.
Headley sold the lethal dose of heroin and fentanyl — a highly addictive synthetic narcotic — to a North Babylon man on May 18.
Investigators found a needle and an empty glassine bag near the victim’s body along with an empty bag bearing the stamp “Aleve” — a signature used by Headley to mark his product, Spota said. Prosecutors declined to name the victim or the drug dealer they say Headley shot.
To convict Headley of manslaughter, prosecutors would have to prove he recklessly caused the victim’s death — a charge no New York street dealer has faced before.
Defense attorney Christopher Gioe of Hauppauge said he doubted prosecutors can prove his client caused the man’s death.
“I don’t think it’s going to be a viable charge,” Gioe said. “I’ve never seen it proven before.”
The only similar case in the state was that of Dr. Stan Xuhui Li, who was convicted of two counts of manslaughter in 2014. He ran a pain management clinic and prescribed opiates to patients with obvious signs of addiction. Two of them died.
State Supreme Court Justice Richard Ambro set Headley’s bail at $10 million bond or $5 million bail. If convicted as a major trafficker, he faces 25 years to life in prison, authorities said.
Headley’s father, who watched his son’s arraignment and supports him, said if authorities believed what they said, they acted irresponsibly by waiting months to make arrests.
“If they knew it was so deadly, why did they let it go on?” Headley Sr. of Mastic said. “Are they playing Russian roulette with everybody?”
Five of Headley’s co-defendants also were charged with operating as a major trafficker under the state’s “kingpin” statute. They were arrested last month during an investigation of 10 heroin and fentanyl-related overdose deaths in Suffolk and Nassau counties.
Attorneys for several of the co-defendants insisted they were not guilty.
“I can say with absolute certainty that Mr. [Keidy] Rodriguez Nuñez was never in the possession of any narcotics,” said his attorney, Jonathan Manley of Hauppauge. Ambro set bail for his client, 34, of Ozone Park, at $4 million bond or $2 million cash.