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Painkiller death nets 3 to 6 years By Scott Stafford Posted: 11/06/2009 01:31:26 AM EST
New England Newspapers
PITTSFIELD -- A North Adams woman was sentenced to three to six years in state prison for selling a powerful opiate painkiller to a friend who overdosed and died shortly afterward.
Dawn Cote, 44, of Liberty Street, North Adams, was found guilty Sept. 27 of selling Fentanyl, a prescription painkiller described as 100 times more powerful than heroine, to 32-year-old Carlen Robinson, who had inadvertently become addicted to prescription opiates due to a painful medical condition. Cote wept throughout the proceedings at Berkshire Superior Court.
This the first time prosecutors in Berkshire County have held a drug dealer criminally responsible for an overdose death.
Carlen Robinson was found dead on the floor of her apartment by her former boyfriend on Nov. 11, 2005.
"This case showcased the tragedy of the disease of addiction and the deadly consequence of the illegal dealing of narcotics," said Paul Caccaviello, Berkshire first assistant district attorney, following the sentencing. "It is a significant problem and needs to be firmly addressed. The defendant’s reckless conduct led directly to the death of Carlen Robinson. Although the court disagreed with the Commonwealth in terms of the length of incarceration, I am pleased that the sentence imposed is one for state prison."
Caccaviello had recommended a sentence of six to eight years.
Defense attorney Timothy Farris had requested a "significant" term of home confinement with use of an electronic monitoring device.
The victim’s mother, Lorraine Robinson of Adams, addressed Berkshire Superior Court Judge John Agostini before the sentencing.
She described her daughter as loving and compassionate before she became addicted. She also said that addiction is a disease that can afflict anyone.
"A drug dealer preys on those with that disease. And four years ago next week was my family’s darkest day," Robinson said. "I don’t know if I forgive Dawn Cote. I do not hate her, but I do hate with all my heart what she did."
Caccaviello reminded the judge evidence had shown that Cote was well aware of the dangers of Fentanyl, and was motivated solely by profit.
A tearful Cote also addressed the court, asking that some consideration be given due to her debilitating skin disease, which has been exacerbated during the 35 days she’s been incarcerated since her conviction.
Agostini elected to send her to the prison in Framingham which has a better medical facility to help with her condition.
Following the sentencing, Lorraine Robinson said justice was served.
"It won’t bring Carlen back, but it will serve as a warning to others that they’re watching you," she said.
Berkshire County District Attorney David Capeless also hoped this case would serve as a warning.
"My hope is that it will embolden investigators to pursue investigations into overdose deaths to hold responsible those involved," he said. "And I hope it will send a chill down the spine of dealers when they realize they can be held responsible for the havoc they wreak."