SCHENECTADY – A Schenectady man has admitted to criminally negligent homicide over a drug sale, admitting drugs he sold led to a man’s death in 2019, Schenectady County District Attorney’s officials said.
Jamey Williams, 40, of Schenectady, pleaded guilty recently to third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, as well as the criminally negligent homicide count, both felonies.
He is to receive a total sentence of 10 years in prison at his October sentencing, including the maximum term of two to four years on the negligent homicide count, officials said.
The case centered around the Dec. 27, 2019 death of Justin Lowery in Schenectady, officials said.
Officials said Lowery had been looking for powder cocaine, but Williams sold him fentanyl and heroin instead, officials said.
Lowery had been visiting friends on Congress Street the evening of Dec. 26, 2019 and wanted cocaine, officials said. When they didn’t have any, they suggested contacting Williams.
Williams then arrived with what was described as a brick of cocaine. He offered to sell Lowery some before he “cooked” the rest into crack cocaine, prosecutors said.
Williams then sold Lowery a portion and Lowery then inhaled it as if it was powder cocaine. Lowery almost immediately showed signs of a drug overdose. One of his companions called 911 at 11:47 that night. By 12:15 a.m., he was pronounced dead, officials said.
The cause of death was determined to be cardiac arrythmia due to fentanyl and cocaine intoxication, officials said.
The proof, however, showed Williams did not know the exact composition of what he was selling, leading to the criminally negligent homicide charge, Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney said.
Had Williams been aware he was selling fentanyl as cocaine, prosecutors could have pursued a higher charge of manslaughter, Carney said.
Officials were also able to get the longer 10-year term with the drug conviction due to Williams having two prior felonies, officials said.
The arrest and plea came after Schenectady Police Chief Eric Clifford dedicated police resources to see if drug overdose fatalities could result in criminal cases, Carney said.
Special Investigations Unit Investigator Kevin Derkowski was then given the task and “did remarkable work,” Carney said in a statement.
“This case was a cold case but he was able to track down the witnesses who were largely cooperative,” Carney said. “Knowing only a phony first name for the dealer and a cell phone number, he was eventually able to identify him, secure a photo array identification from one witness, and corroborate his presence at the scene of Mr. Lowery’s death utilizing a search warrant based on cell phone technology.”
Carney then assigned Assistant District Attorney Nicolaus Brooks-McDonald to work with Derkowski, who was later joined by Investigator Anthony Savignano. They then got a 13-count indictment against Williams, leading to his guilty plea.
“The tragic death of Mr. Lowery shows the dangers that drug users are exposed to in trusting that dealers in the unregulated drug marketplace won’t poison them with lethal substances such as fentanyl,” Carney said.
Clifford, in his own statement, praised his investigators and the prosecutor, and said the work on the case allowed them to get justice for Lowery’s family, but also more.
The case sends a message “to all dealers of illegal drugs that they will be held accountable if the poison they sell harms a member of our community.”
Williams was represented by attorney Christopher Savino. Judge Mark Caruso presided.