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Thursday, March 6, 2008

Heroin death leads to homicide conviction

By Mike Heine/The Week

Michael E. Flaherty's "best friend" died from the heroin he gave him March 18.

Less than a week later, Flaherty sold $60 worth of heroin to a police informant, even telling the informant it wouldn't hurt him.

On Wednesday, Flaherty, 27, 501 N. Milwaukee St., Burlington, pleaded guilty to the reckless homicide of his friend, Joseph William May.

He was the first man in Walworth County history convicted of homicide by delivering drugs, commonly known as the Len Bias law. The law, named after the University of Maryland basketball star who died in 1986 from a cocaine overdose, allows prosecution of people who supply drugs that contribute to an overdose death.

May was 21 when he died in Flaherty's former basement apartment at 1327 W. Main St., Lake Geneva.

Flaherty told a police informant, "Dude died on my living room floor. My best friend I grew up with," according to the criminal complaint.

May drank "almost a whole bottle" of rum and "shot up like three times," Flaherty told the informant. "The thing is, I didn't really give it to him. He did it to himself, you know."

District Attorney Phil Koss said the law doesn't require administering the drugs, just supplying them.

Flaherty told the informant he had left his house momentarily, but ran back inside when he heard his girlfriend screaming, according to the complaint.

"I run back there. I go in the house. He's, he's just (expletive) deader than dead. His eyes were all completely red..." Flaherty said, according to the complaint.

His girlfriend was trying to perform CPR on May and Flaherty told the informant he, "pushed them out of the way, grabbed all of the dope and took off running, dude."

On March 20, Flaherty told an informant he hid the heroin under a porch about six houses away.

Police found eight bindles of heroin in a jar under a porch, about the same distance away Flaherty described.

May died of a lethal overdose of heroin, according to the complaint.

May's mother is not asking for a stiff sentence, defense attorney K. Richard Wells said. Flaherty and May were childhood friends and had lived together on and off, Wells said.

"I know he feels horrible about the situation, more than he could have imagined," Wells said on behalf of his client.

Police set up a controlled buy March 23. Flaherty sold an informant three pills of heroin, according to the complaint.

The informant asked if "the stuff" was going to hurt him, and Flaherty said "no," according to the complaint.

Wells said Flaherty has quit using drugs and "wants to move on."

Flaherty will be sentenced May 1. He faces up to 20 years in prison and 20 years extended supervision.

Related lesser charges and prior drug possession charges from 2006 were dismissed as part of a plea agreement.

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