A Lexington man received a life sentence Monday after a federal jury convicted him of selling a fatal dose of the painkiller fentanyl.
“There’s nothing I can do to take back what happened,” Joshua Donald Ewing, 28, said during his sentencing in federal court in Lexington.
Evidence at his trial in January showed that Ewing sold a mixture of heroin and fentanyl to Jeremy Deaton, 37, of Lexington, who died after taking the drug.
Deaton evidently thought Ewing was selling him heroin.
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Fentanyl is a powerful opioid that can be as much as 50 times stronger than heroin. A toxicologist confirmed at trial that, had it not been for the fentanyl, Deaton would not have died. The toxicologist also said Deaton’s blood contained more than five times the therapeutic range for fentanyl.
Ewing faced a mandatory life sentence under federal guidelines because he was convicted in January 2016 of possession of heroin in Fayette County and was placed on probation for four years.
Ewing sold Deaton the fatal dose of fentanyl the next month.
U.S. District Judge Joseph Hood allowed Deaton’s brother, Chris Deaton, to read a written statement during the sentencing hearing.
Chris Deaton said relatives, including Jeremy Deaton’s son and daughter, have dealt with “profound pain” since his death.
“Joshua, you can’t fathom the pain you have caused,” Chris Deaton said. “I will say that my brother’s life was worth a lot more than $170 that night.”
Judge Hood said Chris Deaton “was right on point when he said drugs were the scourge of this community. Not just this community, but this state and this country.”
Hood ordered Ewing to pay restitution of $23,094, the cost of funeral expenses for Jeremy Deaton.
Acting U.S. Attorney Carlton Shier IV said there have been perhaps “three or four” cases in which life sentences were handed down in the Eastern district of U.S. District Court in the past couple of years.
There is no parole in the federal system, so a life sentence typically means “the natural term of your life,” Shier said.
The U.S. president could issue a pardon or commute the sentence, “but those are extremely rare,” Shier said.
Chris Deaton said outside the courthouse that he can’t yet forgive Ewing.
“I recognize that forgiveness is critical,” Deaton said. “And I will get there. Maybe not today, but I will get there. … There are no winners in cases like this; only losers.”