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Long IslandCrime

Ridge man sentenced to 16 years for selling heroin that killed wrestler

Members of the family of Richard Jacobellis outside

Members of the family of Richard Jacobellis outside federal court in Central Islip on Friday. Credit: Newsday /Howard Simmons

A Ridge man was sentenced Friday to 16 years in federal prison for selling the heroin that resulted in the death of a former Long Island high school wrestling champion.

Richard Jacobellis, 25, had previously admitted in federal court in Central Islip that in 2016 he sold the $100 worth of heroin that caused the overdose death of 20-year-old Nicholas Weber, a former star athlete at Kings Park High School.

Before sentencing, Jacobellis, who admitted that he was a drug addict, apologized to Weber’s family and his own for the harm he had caused.

"My heroin addiction is no excuse,” Jacobellis said.

In high school, Weber was the Suffolk County wrestling champion in the 195-pound class, and was described by his father, Stephen, as “a Triple-A threat in Art, Academics and Athletics.” At the time of his son’s death, his father had said that his son, in addition to being a gifted athlete, could play a Mozart sonata on the piano well and discuss the works of physicist Stephen Hawking.

Weber went to Lehigh University in Pennsylvania after high school, selecting it over the U.S. Naval Academy. But Weber dropped out after six months, hoping eventually to major in physics at Stony Brook University.

Officials said that Weber asked a friend to connect him with a heroin dealer who turned out to be Jacobellis. Weber told the friend that he only “used heroin occasionally and would never become addicted because of his busy schedule.”

U.S. District Judge Joanna Seybert on Friday also sentenced Jacobellis to 5 years supervised release, the first six months of which he will be required to wear an electronic monitor.

In imposing her sentence, Seybert noted that before he sold heroin to Weber, Jacobellis had sold the drug to a friend, which caused brain damage. And even after Weber died, Jacobellis sold the drug to a confidential informant, the judge said.

Jacobellis pleaded guilty in 2018 to conspiracy to distribute heroin as part of a plea deal. He has said he used the same batch of heroin that he sold to Weber without any harm to himself.

According to court papers, Jacobellis’ drug use began when he started smoking marijuana at 13 years old and he has been treated unsuccessfully a number of times in drug rehabilitation.

After the sentencing, Jacobellis’ attorney, Justin Levine of Manhattan, said: “It’s a tragedy for everyone involved. [Weber’s] family is going to have to live without him forever, and he’s going to have to live with what he has done forever.”

Eastern District Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Caffarone said that Weber’s parents were satisfied with the sentence and decided not to show up in court.

A number of Jacobellis’ relatives were in court but declined to comment.


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