LITTLE VALLEY, N.Y. -- First reported by the Olean Times Herald, Cattaraugus County, has for the first time, successfully prosecuted someone for selling heroin that led to an overdose death.
In Olean, Chelsea Lyons will spend 1-3 years in jail for the sale of fentanyl laced heroin that resulted in someone's fatal overdose.
The sentence is a combination of several felonies, but most importantly: criminally negligent homicide.
“And then she pleaded guilty, she also waved her right to appeal, so hopefully this is one for the books,” said District Attorney Lori Rieman.
Rieman says it was Olean Police who first suggested charging dealers with homicide about a year ago.
She hopes this first successful prosecution sends a message to dealers.
“It rides it home that it's a lot more serious, and depending on what they knew, it could even go higher up the homicide scale if the facts were right,” she said.
This next step in fighting the opioid crisis is a small prayer answered for a grieving mother.
Earlier this week, Chris Adamczyk opened up to Channel 2 about what it's like losing a son to drugs.
"I would love to see the drug dealers now being charged with these opiate overdoses. Will that happen? I don't know,” Adamczyk said.
Now, the case against Lyons shows it is starting to happen.
In Erie County, District Attorney John Flynn has been very blunt about wanting to do the same. He was strong on the issue just weeks ago after seven people died from a deadly batch of heroin in 24 hours.
"If I can prove it, I will charge a drug dealer with murder,” said Flynn in a press conference.
Then Wednesday, the Orleans County legislature said in committee hearings that they're going to try and charge dealers with homicide, as well.
It's not easy though. Prosecutors would need to show a strong case that a dealer knowingly sold someone deadly heroin that caused someone to die.
In Cattaraugus County, Chelsea Lyons' text messages were key to the case.
"We were lucky here, there were a lot of digital footprints, I guess I could say,” Rieman said.
This harsher way of prosecuting dealers is spreading, too. This week, the Gates Police Department in Monroe County has, for the first time, charged and alleged heroin dealer with criminally negligent homicide.
That accused seller is not convicted yet like in the Cattaraugus County case, but it does show that law enforcement and prosecutors are going after dealers for more than just dealing.
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