Prosecutor: Sentence in heroin death should send message

Long term seen as appropriate and as deterrent to drug dealing
Katie-Lynn Scheidt is pictured with her brother Brandon at his graduation.
Katie-Lynn Scheidt is pictured with her brother Brandon at his graduation.

SCHENECTADY & SARATOGA SPRINGS — Attorneys for both sides in a heroin case centered on the overdose death of a Saratoga Springs woman have requested a 10-year sentence for her drug dealer.

Matthew Charo, 35, of Saratoga Springs, is to be sentenced next month after admitting in August to distributing heroin.

In a memorandum filed ahead of sentencing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Hanlon asked the judge to impose the 10-year sentence. He argued the term is justified by the nature of the offense and Charo’s background, as well as the fact that it would serve as a deterrent to other drug dealers.

“No amount of prison time will fill the void of (Katie-Lynn Scheidt’s) tragic death. However, a 10-year term of imprisonment will make it clear to the defendant and to other drug dealers that peddling deadly poison, like heroin, will not be tolerated,” Hanlon wrote.

Charo was accused of accompanying Scheidt, 30, from Saratoga Springs to Schenectady in October of 2014 to buy heroin for her. She was later found dead in her residence, prosecutors said.

Family members said Scheidt appeared to be doing the right things in her recovery from substance abuse before she relapsed.

Charo’s August plea was unusual for a federal court agreement because it included a specific sentence suggestion. Federal court pleas generally don’t specify the lengths of prison terms, other than maximums and minimums.

In Charo’s case, the two sides fashioned a plea by which Charo could get 10 years in prison. Had the sides pressed the case to trial on the original charge of distribution of a controlled substance with death resulting, the minimum sentence upon conviction would have been 20 years. The 10-year sentence is itself “far in excess” of the suggested sentencing range for the quantity of heroin distributed in Charo’s case, Charo’s attorney James Knox wrote.

Judge Frederick Scullen Jr. must still review the case, including a pre-sentencing report, before he formally accepts Charo’s plea. Charo has been in custody since his October 2015 arrest.

Knox noted Charo is a heroin addict who wanted to buy heroin for himself — as well as for Scheidt — that day in October 2014. Charo experimented with drugs at a young age, Knox wrote, and progressed to heroin following a back injury for which he was prescribed opioid pain killers. 

Also, Charo is remorseful, Knox wrote.

“Mr. Charo recognizes the sadness that the death of Katie Scheidt has caused, and he understands the loss of a loved one is something that words, atonement and punishment can never replace,” Knox wrote. “However, he wishes to express to her family his sincere remorse. The tragedy of Ms. Scheidt’s death is a burden which Mr. Charo will always carry. Do what he may, he recognizes that he can never repair the damage that has been caused here.”

Hanlon, the prosecutor, argued in his own memo that, despite Charo’s history with heroin and its dangers, and despite the fact that Scheidt was his friend, he still sold her heroin.

Family and friends, Hanlon wrote, still struggle with her loss.

“If even one would-be drug dealer takes this (sentencing) message to heart and elects not to sell heroin, knowing  that every single sale might not only cause someone’s death, but also lead to a significant term of incarceration for him or her, perhaps (Scheidt’s) family could take some comfort in knowing that (Scheidt’s) life was not taken in vain.”

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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