Man pleads guilty to supplying drug that led to fatal ODStaff Report
June 09. 2016 8:31PM
CONCORD — A Newmarket man is facing 20 years in federal prison after pleading guilty Thursday to supplying fentanyl to a Portsmouth woman who died after taking it.
Benjamin Rogers, 30, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to one count of distribution of a controlled substance resulting in death.
According to court records, in October 2014, Rogers was a co-worker of Cassie Ann Clermont, 30, of Portsmouth, formerly of Nashua, at the Dinnerhorn & Bratskellar. On Oct. 17, 2014, another co-worker overheard Clermont asking Rogers to obtain something for her, which the co-worker believed was drugs.
After Rogers got out of work that night, another co-worker gave him a ride to a location in Portsmouth. Based on a conversation that co-worker had with him, he believed Rogers planned to go to Rochester to obtain drugs.
The following day, when Clermont did not arrive for work, concerned friends went to her Ledgewood Drive apartment where they found her body.
Fentanyl, as well as a needle, a spoon, a lighter and syringes also were recovered.
Investigators reviewed text messages on Clermont’s cell phone between her and Rogers. In them Roger said he will be back at 10:30. She asks if he he’s got a “clean rig,” meaning a clean needle. He says, “Nah.”
Rogers said he’d be there “ten” and asks that she bring him a cigarette and $10 for gas.
On Oct. 18, Rogers voluntarily spoke to Portsmouth police. He admitted to being a heroin user and said both he and Clermont were in the Suboxone program. He admitted to being high at work on one occasion.
He also admitted to being with Clermont the previous evening. He claimed he bought about a gram of heroin for $20 from Clermont in the parking lot outside the restaurant. He said that was the only time he obtained heroin from her and that she once asked him to get heroin for her and he declined.
The officer asked if he could see Rogers’ text messages with Clermont. Rogers initially allowed the officer to look at his phone and the officer saw the Oct. 17 text message making reference to a “clean rig.”
The officer was having some difficulty reviewing the message and asked the defendant for help and Rogers promptly deleted the text messages, according to his plea agreement filed June 3 in federal court. He told police he did not want them to see the text messages because he did not want to get in trouble for picking up heroin from Clermont.
Prosecutors said Rogers admitted he had supplied heroin to Clermont in the past, but denied doing so on the evening before her body was found.
“He claimed that he deleted the messages because he did not want the officer to read them because the messages would appear incriminating,” Assistant U.S. Attorney John J. Farley wrote in the plea agreement.
The officer seized the phone and later obtained a search warrant for its contents. Rogers ended the interview shortly after the phone was seized.
According to the plea agreement, had the case gone to trial a witness would testified that Rogers admitted he sold Clermont the heroin (fentanyl). That witness also participated in several consensually recorded calls with Rogers. During one of them, he told the witness “not to say a ...word to anybody.” And in another recorded call, he insisted no one had seen him give the drugs to Clermont.
He was asked, “so no one saw you give that to her, are you sure?” Rogers responded, “I’m positive a hundred percent.” Later, he told the witness to “keep whatever I told you to yourself.”
A co-worker also would have testified he had a conversation with Rogers about Clermont’s death in which Rogers said, “you know if I bought a gun and somebody killed themself, (sic) why would that be my fault?”
Clermont died of acute fentanyl intoxication, according to an autopsy performed by the state medical examiner.
Rogers will be sentenced Sept. 19.