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Fentanyl distribution arrests part of U.S. Attorney’s effort to curb fentanyl deaths

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KRDO) -- Mark Harold and Junior Anthony Highline, both of Grand Junction, are facing federal fentanyl distribution charges following their arrest on May 25, 2022. The allegations include that fentanyl they distributed resulted in death.

In recent months, the United States District Attorney's Office for the District of Colorado has told 13 Investigates they will step in and prosecute these types of cases, rather than local district attorneys, as an attempt to deter fentanyl distribution in the state.

They say they have seized more fentanyl in the first five months of 2022 in Colorado than in all of 2021.

United States District Attorney Cole Finnegan said his office has sentencing enhancers for prosecuting drug distribution that results in death.

"In these instances, it's a minimum of 20 years and it can go as high as life," Finnegan said.

Harold and Highline's arrests are two of many in recent years. Something Finnegan's office says is no coincidence.

"We have had several cases already in which we have successfully prosecuted people who have been linked to the sale of fentanyl to the deaths of innocent people," Finnegan said.

For 4th Judicial District Attorney Michael Allen, the efforts on the federal level are needed because of deficiencies in state law for addressing fentanyl distribution resulting in death.

"On the state level there are not good statutes in place, or sentencing enhancers in place, that you can use for a distribution resulting in death case, and that has nothing to do necessarily with fentanyl that's distribution of any controlled substance," Allen said.

Colorado Governor Jared Polis recently signed a fentanyl bill into law. The law will go into effect on July 1. The law forces district attorneys like Allen to prove that a would-be drug dealer knew they were distributing fentanyl, which is a burden of proof that doesn't exist for other controlled substances in Colorado.

"What happens on the federal side is that if they are distributing any sort of controlled substance and it leads to a death, that gives them the sentencing enhancer that we just don't have on the state side," Allen said.

Allen tells 13 Investigates that often times the best charge his office can hope for is manslaughter, and even then, there has to be very specific facts to garner that charge. He expressed displeasure that fentanyl manslaughter charges are still probation eligible offenses as well.

The amount of fentanyl that can fit on the tip of pen can be fatal. With the new fentanyl laws in place, a person can be in possession of 500 times that amount and walk away with a ticket. Allen said he hopes that changes in the future.

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Sean Rice

Sean is a reporter based out of Pueblo for KRDO. Learn more about him here.

Comments

4 Comments

  1. “…the efforts on the federal level are needed because of deficiencies in state law for addressing fentanyl distribution…”

    Deficiencies… yeah, thanks to the efforts of our Democrat legislators lowering all of the penalties for drug crimes in our State. And the resulting deaths? If you voted “Democrat,” they are YOUR fault.

  2. “Colorado Governor Jared Polis recently signed a fentanyl bill into law. The law will go into effect on July 1. The law forces district attorneys like Allen to prove that a would-be drug dealer knew they were distributing fentanyl, which is a burden of proof that doesn’t exist for other controlled substances in Colorado.”
    Another win for Polis to go soft on drug dealers. You can’t make this stuff up. Colorado use to have tough drug laws until the democrats took over.

  3. Im not a rocket scientist but I think I see a trend since Jan 20, 2020.

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