A Manhattan federal judge put off the sentencing of a drug dealer accused of dumping overdosed Long Island dermatologist Kiersten Cerveny’s body in his apartment vestibule in 2015 after a dispute Thursday over whether she was legally a “victim” entitled to restitution.
Cocaine dealer James “Pepsi” Holder, shown dragging Cerveny’s body with TV producer Marc Henry Johnson on surveillance video, pleaded guilty only to maintaining a drug-involved premises, not giving her the drugs that killed her, his lawyer said.
“She was a victim of her own poor choices, she was a victim of decisions she made,” said lawyer Matthew Kluger. “But to state that she was a victim of Mr. Holder’s apartment . . . I don’t see the proximate cause.”
Cerveny, 38, a married mother of three from Manhasset, died after a night allegedly spent partying with Johnson that ended at Holder’s Chelsea apartment. The two men left after dumping her in the building entryway, and Johnson anonymously called 911, the government said.
The government is seeking a 6-1/2 year prison term for Holder’s years dealing drugs from the apartment, and prosecutor Daniel Abramowicz told U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman he also wanted restitution for Cerveny’s estate because the apartment facilitated her death.
“People can’t use cocaine just anywhere,” the prosecutor said. “ . . . It was James Holder who provided that place” and if he hadn’t Cerveny “could have lived to see another day.”
Kluger has asked Furman to impose a lighter sentence of four years. A restitution order, he said after the hearing, could potentially leave Holder on the hook for Cerveny’s potential lifetime earnings.
Furman asked both sides to submit briefs on the question of whether Cerveny is a “victim” before he sentences Holder, and rescheduled the sentencing to May 11.
Earlier, the judge denied a news media request to release the surveillance video — described by prosecutors as showing Cerveny’s limp body being dragged as her “hair swept against the floor and her head, which was drooped back toward the ground, swung from side to side.”
The judge said that although he had reviewed the video, provided by prosecutors, it would appeal only to “prurient” interests of the public and would upset Cerveny’s family.
Johnson pleaded guilty to serving as an accessory to keep Holder’s drug premises hidden by moving the body from the apartment to the building vestibule. His sentencing is scheduled for June.