How selling $45 of heroin landed this dealer in prison for a young man’s death
Just over two years ago, Lisa Johnson found her 22-year-old son, Richard, dead in the basement of their Hillsborough home, authorities say.
He was surrounded by drug paraphernalia. Authorities later confirmed he'd died of a heroin overdose. According to experts cited by the Somerset County Prosecutor's Office, hed ingested heroin no more than two hours before his death.
Now, the man authorities say provided that heroin is headed to state prison for a 12-year sentence, after being found guilty of strict liability for a drug-induced death, a first-degree crime.
It's a statue several prosecutors have turned to in recent years, as New Jersey's heroin epidemic has spiraled out of control but that wasn't always the case.
In late 2014, Jill R. Cohen — a criminal lawyer and past assistant Camden County prosecutor and assistant Philadelphia district attorney — told NJ.com she'd only seen it used once, and that was on a "slam-dunk" case.
That's even though New Jersey has had the law on the books since 1987, during the height of the crack epidemic, allowing for serious penalties for against anyone who illegally manufactures, distributes, or dispenses drugs that lead to another person’s death.
News reports over the last few years have been peppered with several other reports of such charges.
In November, Shawn Flemmings, 33, of Paterson, was arrested on a strict liability charge after allegedly selling a man heroin spiked with fentanyl — killing his buyer.
“New Jersey law enables us to hold drug dealers criminally responsible for the deaths they cause by sending them to prison for up to 20 years," acting Attorney General John Hoffman said at the time. "We’re seeking justice for the family of the young man allegedly killed by this drug dealer’s heroin, as well as the many others who undoubtedly have suffered because of his poison.”
In early 2014, Quasheem Reels of Paterson pleaded guilty to the rarely used charge. Darius Ghahary of Upper Saddle River was hit with the charge shortly after rafter allegedly selling a man a substance his buyer was heroin, but was instead a "poly-drug substance" authorities say Ghahary mixed himself.
In the Hillsborough case, the Somerset County Prosecutor's Office says, detectives found text messages on Johnson’s cell phone indicating that on the evening of Dec. 23, 2013, he had been reaching out via texts to a contact listed as “Mat.”
He was clearly trying to meet "Mat" to buy narcotics, the prosecutor's office said. And "Mat" obliged, communicated the price of the drugs and a quantity, the office said.
Detectiuves traced the phone number to a PO Box under Krafsky's name in California, and then connected it to the Christopher Krafsky who lived in Bridgewater, the prosecutor's office said.
In January 2014, a detective from the Hillsborough Township Police Department met Krafsky at the Bridgewater Mall and told Krafsky he was investigating Johnson's death, the prosecutor's office said.
Krafsky didn't know Johnson by name, but recognized a picture, it said. He admitted selling Johnson three bags of heroin for $15.00 per bag on the night he died.
For Krafsky, the incident is a sixth indictable conviction in his criminal career. He was on probation for possession with intent to distribute when he committed this crime, authorities say.
He'll be required to serve 85 percent of the 12-year sentence in the New Jersey State Prison before being eligible for parole.