Defendant John Brophy, right, at his arraignment in Riverhead March 11. Photo: James Carbone

A Riverhead drug dealer convicted of manslaughter for causing a fatal overdose on Sweezy Avenue in Riverhead in September 2018 was sentenced today to four to six years in prison.

John Brophy, 50, of Riverhead, pleaded guilty on Aug. 30 to Manslaughter in the Second Degree, a C felony, and Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree, a B felony.

The plea marked the third conviction in Suffolk County history of a drug dealer on a manslaughter charge for causing a fatal overdose.

Brophy was sentenced today by Suffolk County Court Judge Anthony Senft Jr. to four to six years in prison.

Brophy’s supplier, Lashawn Lawrence, 36, of Greenport, was convicted on Sept. 12 following a bench trial of Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree, an E felony. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 15.

A third codefendant, Bryan Hale, 52, of Flanders, pleaded guilty on Aug. 9 to one count of attempted criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third degree (narcotic drug), a class C felony and Criminal Nuisance in the First Degree, an E felony. Brophy frequently sold drugs out of Hale’s auto repair shop at 500 Lincoln Street, with Hale’s knowledge and assistance, according to prosecutors. Hale is free on a $200,000 bond and is due in court for sentencing on Oct. 18.

“Part of our strategy in addressing the opioid epidemic is to target drug dealers who are causing fatal overdoses in our community and treat them as murderers, because that’s what they are,” District Attorney Tim Sini said today.

“This particular defendant was put on notice a number of different times that his product was killing people; several of his customers had to be revived using Narcan and he in fact administered Narcan on a customer himself. The message is clear: if you sell drugs in our community and you cause death, we will charge you with homicide.”

Sini said Brophy and Lawrence were aware of the lethal mix of the drugs they were selling, having had conversations via text messages about the potency of the heroin/fentanyl mix they were selling, which led to two overdoses before the fatal overdose that killed 50-year old Lawrence Yaccarino at a Sweezy Avenue home last Sept. 19. The text messages recovered from Brophy’s cell phone, confiscated by East End Drug Task Force investigators, reveal Brophy recounting to Lawrence how he having to administer Narcan to revive a customer.

The two previous manslaughter convictions of drug dealers who caused fatal overdoses both arose out of manslaughter charges brought in 2016. James Fava, 32, of Ronkonkoma, pleaded guilty on Nov. 16, 2017 to a charge of Manslaughter in the Second Degree in connection with a fatal overdose. Fava was the first person in New York State to be convicted of manslaughter for causing a fatal overdose. He was sentenced on Feb. 13, 2018, to four to six years in prison. Roxy Headley Jr., 33, of Mastic Beach, pleaded guilty to Manslaughter in the Second Degree on March 2, 2018 and was sentenced to 11 to 15 years in prison.

“We will continue to press our legislators to finally pass legislation for a ‘death by dealer’ statute so that we can hold drug dealers even more accountable for the death and destruction they are causing in our community,” Sini said today. “We have had success in utilizing the manslaughter statute, and will continue that strategy, but it is not enough. It is critically important that prosecutors have the tools they need to effectively prosecute drug dealers who are causing death.”

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.