Methadone gift leads to overdose death

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A gift of methadone as a hang-over cure that contributed to a friend’s death resulted in three years probation for a Sarnia man.

Joseph Robert Judson, 39, previously pleaded guilty to methadone trafficking but sentencing was delayed until Wednesday in Sarnia court

Methadone is an opioid used in the treatment of drug addictions.

In January 2016 Sarnia police were investigating the death of a man found in a vehicle parked at a residence.

His death was not regarded as criminally suspicious.

The man had been drinking and investigators were told he had used cocaine and methadone on the same evening.

A cell phone showed a call with a person named JJ who said he had methadone. The man had been told the drug would eliminate a hangover.

After being confronted by an officer Judson admitted he had given his friend part of his methadone prescription.

A toxicologist’s report indicated the man’s cocaine, alcohol and methadone levels were under fatal levels.

A coroner determined his death was accidental due the combination of the substances, a poly-substance toxicity.

All the evidence supports his death was accidental, said federal prosecutor Michael Robb who sought a six-month jail sentence for Judson.

Methadone is not a harmless substance and is subject to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, said Robb who cited a prior similar case that brought an eight-month sentence.

In that 2006 case a man gave methadone to a woman who died of an overdose. The woman had had cocaine, methadone, alcohol and marijuana in her body. Sharing of drugs meets the definition of trafficking.

In Judson’s case custody is not needed for his intended act of kindness that had tragic consequences, said defence lawyer Don Henderson who sought probation for Judson.

The methadone was gifted by Judson who was unaware his friend had been using cocaine as well, said Henderson.

“I am extremely sorry for everything that has happened. I wish I could turn back time but I can’t. . . I have not stopped thinking about (the man) and his family,” said Judson.

His friend’s death may not been Judson’s intention but it has changed the life of his friend’s mother forever, said Justice Mark Hornblower referring to a victim-impact statement filed with the court.

In rejecting a jail sentence Hornblower said Judson had to be given significant credit for the steps taken since the incident.

Custody would undermine the rehabilitative progress Judson has made, said Hornblower.

Since the incident Judson has taken drug-treatment counseling and is drug-free. He has also ended his use of methadone.

A pre-sentence report indicated Judson was a prime candidate for community supervision through probation, said Henderson.

The probation sentence does not diminish the value of the man’s life and does not reflect his life’s value or the impact of his death, said Hornblower.

During probation Judson must stay away from drugs and bars while taking counseling for substance abuse and mental health.

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