A drug dealer linked to the 2015 cocaine overdose death of Long Island dermatologist Kiersten Rickenbach Cerveny pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court on Monday to using his apartment as a so-called stash house to keep and peddle drugs.
The unresponsive body of Cerveny, 38, of Manhasset, was found in the lobby of dealer James “Pepsi” Holder’s Chelsea apartment building, allegedly dragged there by him and prominent TV producer Marc Henry Johnson when she died after a night of partying.
Neither man was charged with supplying the cocaine that killed her, but Holder was accused of running a drug distribution location, and Johnson — who is awaiting trial — was accused of dragging Cerveny’s body from the apartment to hinder Holder’s prosecution.
“I did use and maintain a room and an apartment in New York County for the purpose of distributing cocaine,” said Holder, who has been in custody since his arrest in May and entered the courtroom in shackles.
Holder faces up to 20 years in prison, and federal sentencing guidelines call for a term of 78 to 97 months. U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman set Holder’s sentencing for March 23.
Defense lawyer Matthew Kluger said Holder had not agreed to cooperate in the case against Johnson, although he could theoretically be called as a witness, and said the plea was not an admission that he had anything to do with Cerveny’s death.
“I haven’t seen any conclusive evidence that leads me to believe that the drugs she may or may not have been using that evening came from Mr. Holder,” Kluger said.
The case made headlines in October, 2015, when the lifeless body of Cerveny — a Duke and Tulane graduate, married mother of 3 and former chief of dermatology at Brooklyn Hospital Center — was found dumped in the apartment house vestibule in October 2015.
The government alleged that Johnson, a producer with credits including the Michael Moore series “The Awful Truth,” had gotten cocaine from Holder earlier in the evening and offered it around at a bar where he met Cerveny, already doing cocaine.
Video surveillance showed the two arriving in a taxi at 4:25 a.m. at Holder’s apartment, and then hours later showed Holder and Johnson dragging her body down a hall and leaving it, the government said. Johnson allegedly called 911 for an ambulance at the location without giving his name.
Johnson, 51, of Manhattan, is charged with attempted distribution of cocaine as well as dragging the body to help Holder evade detection. A lawyer for Johnson declined to comment Monday. Cerveny’s widowed husband did not return a call for comment on the guilty plea.