LACONIA — A plea deal for an Alton resident linked to a series of events which led to the near-fatal fentanyl-induced overdose of another man has been rejected by a Superior Court judge.
John French, 66, of East Side Drive, in Alton, appeared in Belknap Superior Court Tuesday offering to plead guilty to one charge of conspiracy to sell a controlled drug in return for a sentence which would have called for as little as one month of incarceration.
Judge James D. O’Neill III rejected the negotiated plea and scheduled the case for trial sometime next year.
Belknap County Attorney Andrew Livernois said that in recommending the sentence he took into consideration French's age, his "limited" criminal record which consisted of a misdemeanor conviction and a felony conviction about 20 years ago, and that he was not actively in procuring any drugs.
He said Alton police concurred with the plea agreement.
"I think the judge feels more jail time is appropriate in this case," Livernois said of O'Neill's rejection of the plea.
According to court records, French drove Jason Malo from Alton to Derry last January where they picked up a third person who had just left a drug rehab program and wanted to obtain drugs. The three then drove to Lawrence, Massachusetts, where Malo purchased fentanyl, which he split between himself and the third person. Malo then gave French money for providing the ride to Lawrence, the indictment states.
Under the terms of the plea deal reached between the Belknap County Attorney’s Office and French’s attorney, French would have been sentenced to 12 months in the Belknap County Corrections facility, with all but 60 days suspended, with the ability to request that he serve the second month of his sentence under house arrest. In addition he would have received a suspended $434 fine, and served one year on probation.
Malo, 22, of Stockbridge Corner Road, in Alton, is serving a 1½- to three-year prison sentence after pleading guilty in June to two counts of sale of fentanyl. The prison sentence was imposed on one count. On the other count he received a suspended three- to six-year prison sentence, which was conditioned on five years of good behavior, under the terms of the negotiated plea accepted by Judge Tina Nadeau.
According to the sworn statement filed in connection with Malo’s arrest, the man that he and French picked up in Derry had just been discharged from a residential drug-rehabilitation program. After purchasing the fentanyl in Lawrence, he and Malo ingested some of the drug on the ride back to Alton. Once back in Alton, Malo gave some of the drug that remained to the victim.
That evening the man’s parents, suspecting their 23-year-old son was under the influence of drugs, took him to Lakes Region General Hospital where, according to the affidavit, he was evaluated and then released. At about 9 the following morning the father found his son unresponsive and called first responders.
According to the affidavit, NARCAN was administered, the victim was taken to the hospital, where he was placed in a medically-induced coma for five days during which time he was on a ventilator because he could not breathe on his own.
At the time French and Malo were arrested Alton Police Chief Ryan Heath characterized the sale of fentanyl in Alton as an “epidemic.”