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Hearing held in Schenectady heroin overdose case

Hearing held in Schenectady heroin overdose case

Prosecutors want to raise maximum sentence to 20 years
Hearing held in Schenectady heroin overdose case
Photographer: Shutterstock

ALBANY -- DNA linked a man to heroin found inside a Schenectady overdose victim's room two years ago; now a judge must decide whether there's enough evidence to link that man to her death.

Ronald T. Showers, 41, pleaded guilty in January to a federal charge of heroin possession with intent to distribute. He is to be sentenced in June.

He would normally face up to 2 years, 6 months in prison. But prosecutors are attempting to raise the maximum sentence to 20 years by connecting heroin he admitted to possessing with the September 2014 death of a 19-year-old Schenectady woman.

Prosecutors this week offered four witnesses to support their argument for a harsher sentence, including an investigator in the case and videotaped questioning of Showers.

Showers' defense, however, pointed to two other suspects and questioned statements made by Showers that connected him to the woman's overdose. In the video, Showers admitted to putting heroin in the woman's car visor, but he denied giving it to her.

The hearing requires a lower standard of proof than is needed at a trial. U.S. District Judge Mae A. D'Agostino is to make a final determination at Showers' sentencing in June.

This week's hearing served as almost an extension of the normal sentencing hearing, allowing D'Agostino to hear from witnesses ahead of sentencing arguments. Testimony focused on an over-the-counter pain-reliever bottle found by Schenectady police inside the woman's Victory Avenue apartment. Inside that bottle, investigators found six small envelopes of heroin bound by a rubber band.

The rubber band carried the DNA that linked the drugs to Showers, a forensic scientist testified. But it also contained another profile that couldn't be compared, state police forensic scientist Carrie McGinnis testified.

Defense attorney Brian Devane seized on that, suggesting through questioning that one of two other suspects linked to the victim could have left that DNA after Showers last handled the packets.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Barnett also played portions of Showers' questioning by police, months before his summer 2016 arrest.

"I was hiding it, and I guess she must have found it," Showers said on the video.

"I did not provide her with anything," Showers said at another point.

Showers remains in custody.

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