BRIDGEPORT >> To close his brief remarks to the court before being sentenced to more than four years in prison, Ronald Weaver, 38, of Waterbury, turned around, stretched out his right hand toward the gallery and said, “I’m sorry.”
Lynn Kovask, 50, sat in the front row and nodded her head at Weaver’s apology, continuing to wipe away tears.
Minutes before Weaver spoke, Kovask stood in front of the courtroom and told Weaver that she did not hate him for selling the drugs that likely killed her daughter, Mindy Kovask, 30, of Newtown, on March 11, 2016.
“You didn’t kill my daughter, but you were part of it,” Kovask said. “I know that punishing the person who sold her drugs will not bring her back. But I will sleep better at night knowing another mother won’t have to go through this.”
Kovask said the family was aware that Mindy had started to have a drug problem, but it was a relatively recent development prior to her death. Kovask is now working to have full custody of the three daughters Mindy left behind.
“I’m 50 and I’m driving a minivan and I’m a soccer mom again,” she said.
Thursday’s court proceeding was another example of dozens of instances of drug cases that have been brought before federal judges in the last year in which the defendant has not been charged with killing anyone, but federal prosecutors have argued that a fatality in the case cannot be ignored in sentencing.
In a recent New Haven case, Frank Pina was sentenced to seven years in prison by U.S. District Judge Michael Shea, who said that he chose to add one year to the sentence for each of the recorded victims who died from drugs Pina had sold to them.
This time, it was Assistant U.S. Attorney Avi Perry pleading with U.S. District Court Judge Stefan Underhill to remember a victim of a drug overdose and her family when imposing a sentence on a defendant, even though he did not have direct proof that the woman died because of drugs the defendant sold.
“I can’t prove the causation,” Perry said. “For too long, we’ve talked about the selling of drugs as a victimless crime.”
“Every time he (sold drugs) he gambled with someone else’s life,” Perry added.
Weaver was charged with possession with intent to distribute heroin in this case because law enforcement was able to connect drug paraphernalia found in the victim’s home with a runner who regularly sold drugs for Weaver, according to court documents. Law enforcement officials also conducted several controlled purchases of heroin from Weaver prior to his arrest in August, according to court documents.
Investigators believed that Mindy purchased heroin from Weaver’s runner in the days before her death, according to the affidavit.
Weaver was sentenced Thursday to a total of 52 months in prison. He was convicted by plea on Oct. 5 of one count of possession with intent to distribute, and distribution of, heroin.
“You made a huge mistake,” Underhill said prior to imposing sentence. “Don’t think you can do this again or you will get really used to living in a beige jumpsuit.”
Weaver was employed at the time of his arrest, according to Perry, and chose to sell heroin on the side for profit, not to feed a drug habit, as is often the case for defendants in federal drug cases. Weaver was selling drugs, with the help a homeless man who served as his runner, for $6 per bag, Perry said.
Perry said that Weaver profited enough from selling roughly half a kilogram of heroin that he could afford to buy a Lexus and tickets to NBA games. Pictures were found on Perry’s phone of Weaver posing in selfies with professional athletes, Perry said.
Weaver’s attorney, Gregory Cerritelli, said Thursday that Weaver has realized that he cannot continue to sell drugs and is very sorry for his conduct. He added that Weaver has worked to turn his life around while out on bond after his arrest last year and he has a strong desire to be a good father for his 6-year-old daughter.
“Mr. Weaver was, by all means, a low level street (dealer),” Cerritelli said. “This is just a snapshot of Mr. Weaver’s life.”
“I do have to point out one important fact is that there’s nothing here that links Mr. Weaver to that death,” he added.
Cerritelli also submitted several letters in support of Weaver to the court.
Underhill said he acknowledged the work Weaver had done in rehabilitation since his arrest, and he wished Weaver well in his future.
“You’re going to miss your daughter when you’re in prison, but you can go back to her. Mindy’s not coming back,” Underhill said. “Count your blessings that your separation from your daughter will not be permanent.”
In addition to his sentence, Weaver forfeited a 2006 Infiniti M35, a 2007 Lexus ES350, and $1,956 in cash, all of which were seized from him at the time of his arrest.
Weaver was ordered to surrender to the Federal Bureau of Prisons by 2 p.m. March 29.