An Englewood heroin addict was sentenced to 11 years in prison after a jury found him guilty in the death of Joey Wayne Hallmark after the two did suspected heroin together and he left Hallmark to die from an overdose.
John Francis Michels' conviction is the first successful prosecution in the 12th Judicial Circuit for someone charged with homicide for selling someone the narcotics that caused that person's death. New legislation was enacted in October that allowed someone to be charged with murder or manslaughter if the drugs they distributed caused that person's death.
Michels was found guilty of manslaughter and sale or delivery of carfentanil on May 4 following a week-long trail in Sarasota. On Tuesday, Circuit Judge Charles Roberts sentenced Michels to serve 11 years in prison, followed by three years of probation.
"I hope this verdict and sentence sends a clear message to those individuals that sell synthetic heroin on the streets that if your drugs cause someone to die, you will be prosecuted not only for sale of a controlled substance but also for homicide," Assistant State Attorney Kennedy Legler said in an issued statement.
At about 2 a.m. March 3, 2017, Hallmark, 42, and Michels, 39, met at the 7-Eleven at 3580 Clark Road in Sarasota, and the victim asked Michels if he could help him get pain pills. Michels instead offered to get heroin, which the victim agreed to try. The victim paid for gas for Michels' car before they left together, and Michels made several calls and texts before getting the victim $40 worth of suspected heroin in two bags.
Both men did the drugs in Michels' car, and Hallmark began to overdose. Michels stopped the car and pulled Hallmark out, leaving him to die, but not before going through the victim's pockets to take his cell phone and the other bag of suspected heroin.
Hallmark was found dead several hours later at the intersection of Egerton Circle and Wexford Lane in Sarasota when a neighbor reported the body to the sheriff's office. An autopsy and toxicology confirmed that he died from a carfentanil overdose.
"While I understand the victim shared some of the responsibility in this case for willingly ingesting the narcotics that night, it was Mr. Michels who ultimately suggested that the victim try heroin, a substance Mr. Michels was very familiar with, a substance Mr. Michels knew is routinely replaced with carfentanil on the street," Legler said.
"It was also Mr. Michels who left the victim to die on the side of the road that night knowing he was overdosing. He never called 911. He never tried to render aid. He simply pulled him out of the car and left him face down in the dirt to die."