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Attorney seeks dismissal of overdose death case

Zachary Ross, 21, was charged in September with drug delivery resulting in death and several other offenses


By Terrie Morgan-Besecker
The Times-Tribune

FACTORYVILLE, Penn. — The attorney for a Factoryville man charged with providing fentanyl to a friend who fatally overdosed argued the most serious charge against him should be dismissed because there’s insufficient evidence to prove the drug caused the victim’s death.

Zachary Ross, 21, was charged in September with drug delivery resulting in death and several other offenses for allegedly providing fentanyl to Cody Albert, 21, of Kingsley, on March 17, 2016.

To prove the charge of drug delivery resulting in death, prosecutors must show the drug the defendant provided was the specific cause of death, said Ross’ attorney, Ernest Preate. It’s not enough to show that it contributed to a death, Preate said.

At a hearing Friday before Lackawanna County Judge Margaret Bisignani Moyle, Preate said forensic pathologist Gary Ross, M.D., who conducted the autopsy, and Lawrence J. Guzzardi, M.D., a toxicology expert for the defense, determined Albert died from the effects of a mixture of drugs, including fentanyl. Guzzardi determined the amount of fentanyl in Albert’s system was not, by itself, enough to kill him.

First Deputy District Attorney Gene Riccardo acknowledged Albert ingested several other drugs that were legally prescribed to him, including oxycodone and two anxiety medications, and also had THC, which is found in marijuana, in his system. A toxicology expert for the prosecution, Michael J. Coyer, Ph.D., contends the fentanyl ultimately caused his death, however.

Riccardo said the issue isn’t how much fentanyl was in Albert’s body but the manner in which it was delivered into his system.

Prosecutors say Ross obtained fentanyl patches, which slowly release the drug through a person’s skin. He and Albert chewed the patches, which caused the drug to be released much quicker into their systems. That caused Albert to suffer a seizure and respiratory arrest that proved fatal.

Riccardo argued prosecutors have presented sufficient evidence at this point to take the case to trial. It’s up to a jury to decide whether to believe the prosecution’s or defense’s expert.

Moyle took the matter under advisement and will issue a ruling at a later date.

Copyright 2017 The Times-Tribune

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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