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Alton man guilty of exposing police officer to fentanyl

By BEA LEWIS
Union Leader Correspondent

September 13. 2018 11:15PM
Deputy Belknap County Adam Woods makes his case to a jury on Thursday in the trial of Eric Weil of Alton. The jury returned a guilty verdict. (Bea Lewis/Correspondent)



Eric Weil, 50, left, and his Attorney Harry Starbranch of Portsmouth, listen to the defense's closing arguments in Belknap County Superior Court. (Bea Lewis/Correspondent)

LACONIA — A Belknap County jury has convicted an Alton man of reckless conduct for blowing fentanyl into the air and exposing a nearby police officer to the potential risk of serious injury.

Eric Weil, 50, who has no prior criminal record, according to his lawyer, remains free on bail pending his sentencing that will be scheduled next week as the court calendar permits.

A jury of six men and six women deliberated for about three hours before returning the guilty verdict Thursday afternoon.

Defense Attorney Harry Starbranch cast Weil as a hero for agreeing to take a friend’s drug addicted son into his home in an effort to keep him clean. The arrest came after Weil encountered his guest experiencing a suspected drug overdose and called for help after finding a folded piece of paper inside a cigarette pack that he suspected contained drugs.

“Eric did the right thing; he engaged in tough love,” Starbranch told the jury during his closing arguments. He maintained that Weil didn’t know what the substance was, so had no appreciation that it was a deadly weapon as charged by the state.

“This is not a case that should be brought but must be brought,” countered prosecutor Adam Woods.

He told the jury that Weil picked up the paper packet containing what later tested positive as fentanyl, opened it, held it to his mouth and blew causing the powder to become visibly airborne to officer Jamie Fellows and settle on his uniform.

The officer testified that the exposure gave him post-nasal drip, a headache and a sore throat.

Woods said the legal standard was an objective one in that fentanyl in the manner in which Weil used it is known to cause serious injury or death.

He countered the defense’s assertions that Weil didn’t know what the substance was and therefore could not have known that it posed a potential risk to the officer, or that his actions were reckless, by citing the state’s opioid crisis.

“Think of what’s happening in the state and in the nation. He was aware of the danger,” the prosecutor told the jury.

“Officer Fellows was in disbelief. He testified that he couldn’t believe it, and that before he has time to react the cloud comes down around him and he inhaled it — something that he is taught to avoid in his training,” Woods said. “A conscious disregard for a risk he knew, that is why (Weil) is being prosecuted,” Woods said.

The charge is a Class B felony potentially punishable by a maximum penalty of 3½ to 7 years in prison.


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