Judge Gives Man 23 Years After Someone OD'd on His Heroin, Lectures Us About Ruining Lives

A prison cell door
May 13 2016

Judge Gives Man 23 Years After Someone OD’d on His Heroin, Lectures Us About Ruining Lives

May 13th, 2016

It’s an outcome all the more horrific for being unforgivably common. A man from Rock Island, Illinois received a 23-year prison sentence yesterday after being convicted of supplying the drugs associated with a fatal overdose.

Steven Waldrip, 48, had been found guilty in October of one count of distribution of heroin resulting in death; he was found to have sold the drug to 55-year-old Kathi Sweeney, whose death in December 2013 was ruled a heroin overdose. He pleaded guilty to three other counts of supplying heroin; prosecutors say he sold it to an undercover officer.

Waldrip said that he had been addicted to heroin, but that “I ain’t no drug dealer.” He denied selling heroin to Sweeney. Letters from people who know him in support of his case described him as a calm and compassionate father who had struggled with addiction for years.

Frequently, distinctions between “dealer” and “user” are not very meaningful when people who know each other use together, share drugs with each other, and sometimes sell to fund their use.

Waldrip’s co-defendent, 26-year-old Kyle Wilson, who was with Sweeney on the day of her death and injected her with heroin in a parking lot, received a 12-year-sentence—one that was reduced in return for his testifying against Waldrip.

US District Court Judge Sara Darrow said, according to the Quad City Times, that heroin had killed Sweeney and ruined Waldrip and Wilson’s lives.

You know what else ruins people’s lives, Judge Darrow? Inflicting a brutally long prison sentence on them and their families.

Darrow added that federal laws are there to “send a message” about the dangers of dealing—delighted, no doubt, that many decades of such laws “sending a message” have successfully resulted in a drug-free America.

Apparently warming to her sanctimonious theme, Darrow said of people who buy and sell drugs: “You’re playing the lottery each and every time.”

We await a rash of vindictive prosecutions of bartenders and liquor store clerks for sales implicated in alcohol poisonings and traffic fatalities.