A woman sentenced Thursday for selling fentanyl that killed another woman in 2022 was the first to be sentenced under a new 2022 law that aims to fight the fentanyl epidemic, the Eighth Judicial District Attorney’s Office announced in a news release.
Andrea Branco was sentenced Thursday in Larimer County to ten years in prison after pleading guilty in August to a charge of fentanyl distribution causing death, a Class 1 drug felony, after she sold the fentanyl to Kara Gorman that killed her Sept. 1, 2022, according to the news release.
The charge, which became law in May 2022, carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Eighth Judicial District Attorney Gordon P. McLaughlin called Thursday’s sentencing the “first of its kind” and praised the collaboration between the Northern Colorado Drug Task Force, Fort Collins Police Services, and the Larimer County Coroner’s Office to target fentanyl dealers.
“(Thursday’s) sentence marks a turning point in our ability to hold those committing murder with fentanyl accountable and proves these laws are a successful piece of combating the fentanyl epidemic,” McLaughlin said.
Prosecutors presented evidence to the court showing Branco distributed illegal drugs to multiple people and “specifically began a conversation with Ms. Gorman to entice her to purchase drugs, ultimately selling her four fentanyl pills and providing the means to use them,” according to the news release.
During the debate over the 2022 bill that made fentanyl distribution resulting in death a felony, prosecutors and law enforcement officials said the creation of a criminal charge would give them another needed tool to stem the flow of the synthetic opioid into communities and hold dealers accountable.
Families of people who died of fentanyl overdoses also asked for change and criticized police for not investigating their loved ones’ dealers under existing drug distribution laws.
Mental health experts, addiction treatment providers and harm reduction advocates oppose the bill, arguing that increasing criminal penalties does not deter drug use and tying criminal charges to overdose deaths can deter people from calling 911 for help.
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