MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A Minnesota man who provided a synthetic drug that killed a 19-year-old and sent 10 other partygoers to the hospital last year pleaded guilty Thursday to third-degree unintentional murder.
Timothy LaMere, 22, of Blaine, entered his plea in Anoka County District Court, bringing a sudden end to a case that spurred calls for tougher laws against synthetic drugs and their variants. According to the agreement, he'll receive nine years and nine months in prison, the maximum under sentencing guidelines.
Prosecutors said LaMere caused Trevor Robinson's death by providing him with the drug 2C-E.
"Many families have been affected by this tragedy," Anoka County Attorney Tony Palumbo said. "Experimenting with drugs never leads to a good result. In this case, it led to death."
Palumbo said to his knowledge, this is the first murder conviction related to the distribution of 2C-E. A similar case is pending in Oklahoma, where two people died after ingesting a designer drug at a party.
According to court documents in the Minnesota case, LaMere arrived at a party in Blaine last year with a bottle containing a substance that he said would cause hallucinations. He offered it to anyone who wanted some, and he and Robinson inhaled it through their noses.
The criminal complaint said Robinson began "punching walls, breaking items, staring and having dilated pupils and yelling." He stopped breathing and was taken to a hospital, where he died of cardiac arrest due to drug toxicity.
LaMere and 10 others who took the drug also became sick. Officers arrived to find the victims, ages 16 to 21, with a variety of side effects. Some were having trouble breathing, some appeared to be hallucinating, and others acted violently and struggled with medical personnel.
According to the Star Tribune, LaMere told the court Thursday that he bought the synthetic drug online but didn't know it was illegal.
The U.S. attorney's office had told Anoka County prosecutors that it might pursue federal charges, which could carry stiffer penalties, if a deal wasn't reached. Defense attorney Brad Zunker told the court this factored into his client's decision to plead guilty, the Star Tribune reported.
Zunker did not immediately return a phone message left by The Associated Press.
The U.S. attorney's office declined comment.
"The tragedy in Blaine is a stark reminder that synthetic drugs are a deathtrap," Mona Dohman, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Safety, said in a statement.
Officials say 2C-E can be bought online and was illegal at the time of Robinson's death because it is a "cousin drug" to a banned rave-party drug. At the time, it was not specifically listed as a banned drug but was defined as a controlled substance.
The state law has since been clarified, and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar has introduced federal legislation to specifically ban 2C-E and other synthetic hallucinogens. She also co-sponsored legislation to ban synthetic marijuana and bath salts. All the bills won unanimous passage through the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Klobuchar is now working to bring them to a vote in the full Senate.
Klobuchar said this case illustrates why a federal ban is important. She said the lack of a ban creates confusion, and many people, like LaMere, buy these drugs online and don't know they are illegal.
"You have people that are buying these drugs, and nobody even knows how powerful they are," she said. "It ends up killing people."
LaMere is scheduled to be sentenced May 25.
Palumbo said he hopes the conviction, as well as the horrible circumstances of Robinson's death, will deter others from experimenting with synthetic drugs.
"Hopefully some young people will have learned from this," he said.
Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com