Fentanyl Dealers Could Get Life In Prison Under Bipartisan Massachusetts Bill 

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2023/07/11/fentanyl-dealers-could-get-life-in-prison-under-bipartisan-massachusetts-bill/

Should big-time drug dealers get life in prison?

A bipartisan bill on Beacon Hill would make it possible.

The bill (S.1095/H.1781) would strengthen penalties for convicted drug dealers in Massachusetts, including life in prison without parole for the biggest dealers. State Senator Patrick O’Connor (R-Weymouth) filed the bill in the Massachusetts Senate, and state representatives Steve Xiarhos (R-Barnstable) and Jeff Turco (D-Winthrop) filed it in the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

The bill would make the penalty for intentionally manufacturing, distributing, dispensing, delivering, or providing any amount of a Class A controlled substance or counterfeit substance that results in someone’s death “up to life in prison.”

Currently, the sentence for Class A drug dealing is between 2.5 to 10 years in prison. The state does not require an additional penalty for those involved with drug dealing that kills somebody.

The bill provides that those who seek medical assistance for someone experiencing an overdose of a Class A drug will not be charged for violating the law.

Class A drugs include fentanyl, heroin, ketamine, and morphine, among other substances.

O’Connor told NewBostonPost that the lawmakers filed the bill to allow the legal system to take big-time drug dealers off the streets for good.

“Massachusetts needs to hold high-level dealers accountable for the havoc they have brought to our communities,” O’Connor told NewBostonPost in a written statement. “This session I have filed legislation to give our District Attorneys the tools they need to prosecute large distributors who knowingly sell drugs that lead to overdose deaths. With Fentanyl present in more than 90% of all fatal overdose deaths in the Commonwealth, we need to do more.”

Xiarhos said the death of Tatiana Kelloyan inspired him to support the bill. Kelloyan, a Barnstable resident and neighbor of the state representative, died at 19 years old in January 2021 of a fentanyl overdose; she intended to take a Percocet, but it was laced with fentanyl, according to Xiarhos.

“Currently, if you get arrested for selling fentanyl, you pay $40 and you walk out the door of the police station, I think we should make a difference when it comes to fentanyl based on all the deaths that are happening and tragedies like this one,” Xiarhos said last month during a hearing of the state legislature’s Joint Committee on the Judiciary, on June 13.

Xiarhos also read testimony from George and Victoria Kelloyan, Tatiana’s parents. They said they do not want other families to endure such a loss.

“We are asking help from our government, our judicial system, to be more proactive in helping families like ours,” Xiarhos read from the letter. “Criminals who strive to make a living on our loved ones should be charged with serious consequences and serve in jail for poisoning, not to be let out on bail when it comes to drugs, specifically extremely deadly poison, fentanyl.”

Scituate resident Gregory Shea, who lost his son, Gregory Shea II, at 21 years old, also testified in favor of the bill. The younger Shea used a drug cut with a lethal dose of fentanyl that killed him in February 2021.

The older Shea said that the family found out who sold their son fentanyl-laced drugs, but that police said they could not press homicide charges against the drug dealer.

Shea said:


We were actually able to determine who brought Gregory to the drug dealer to buy the drugs. We shared all this information with the Scituate and Hull police. When a period of time had passed and nothing appeared to be getting done, I called the district attorney’s office and asked why there was nothing being done. They said that they would have a police officer get in touch with me. I received a call back from a state trooper who explained to me — it actually turned out to be the same state trooper that came to the house the day Gregory passed — from the district attorney’s office. He explained to me, with fentanyl, it’s next to impossible to prosecute these cases the way the laws are written in Massachusetts, that there’s not a separate law on the books that deals strictly with fentanyl. So, as a result of that, hearing that devastating news on top of already being devastated by losing our son, we began to write letters to our state lawmakers. And we were lucky enough to get a response from Senator O’Connor, who filed a bill that’s before you today.


Massachusetts endured 2,357 confirmed and estimated fatal opioid-related overdoses in 2022, a new state record. It was a 2.5 percent increase over 2021 and a 9.1 percent increase from 2016. Fentanyl was present in 93 percent of fatal opioid overdose deaths where a toxicology screening took place, according to State House News Service.

The United States had 109,680 drug overdose deaths in 2022, 79,770 of which involved opioids, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The bipartisan bill remains before the state legislature’s Joint Committee on the Judiciary. It is the first time the bill has been filed.


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