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Effort to help addict led to arrest for allegedly exposing officer to fentanyl, says Alton man

By BEA LEWIS
Union Leader Correspondent

September 13. 2018 9:12AM
Eric Weil, of Alton, listens to testimony during his trial for reckless conduct in Belknap County Superior Court Wednesday. (BEA LEWIS/CORRESPONDENT)



Eric Weil shows a jury how he held a piece of paper containing what he suspected was heroin he discovered in his home and tried to turn over to police, subsequently resulting in his arrest for reckless conduct for blowing some of the powder off his finger and in the direction of a police officer, the state charges. (Bea Lewis/Correspondent)

LACONIA — An Alton man facing a felony reckless conduct charge for allegedly exposing a police officer to the opioid fentanyl testified Wednesday that the whole incident stems from his efforts to help an addict.

Eric Weil, 50, told a jury he welcomed the son of a longtime friend into his home after the man was released from a rehab program and wanted to turn his life around.

“I told him don’t bring dope in my house,” Weil testified on Wednesday.

But when Weil’s girlfriend found the man in an agitated state crouched in his bedroom with his elbows on his knees and his index fingers jammed up his nostrils yelling that he wanted to die, Weil called 911.

After reporting that he suspected the man was overdosing, Weil said, he wanted police to remove the suspected drugs he’d found during a search of the guest room.

When police arrived, Weil met them outside and tried to hand a piece of folded paper to Officer Jamie Fellows that contained the suspected drugs and was told three times to “throw it down.”

Weil said he dropped the paper to the ground and that it remained there while two of the three Alton officers who arrived at his home began to question his house guest about what he had ingested.

Weil’s live-in girlfriend repeatedly expressed concern that the paper containing the unknown substance shouldn’t remain on the ground since it posed a potential hazard to their free-range chickens, two cats and Yorkie dog. Weil said he picked the paper up with his left hand and, as he did, noticed that some of the powder was on his index finger. He blew it off, prompting Officer Fellows to say, “I can’t believe you just did that. I tasted that.”

An emergency medical technician who works for the Alton Fire Department testified that she was asked to respond to the police station on Aug. 24, 2017 about 11 p.m. for a report of exposure to an unknown substance. Officer Fellows had white residue on the ridge of the chest pocket on his uniform and on his badge and name plate, she said, and also complained of a sore throat.

Fellows was advised to decontaminate by putting his uniform in a plastic bag and to go take a shower.

Defense Attorney Harry Starbranch unsuccessfully argued for the charge to be dismissed at the close of the state’s case, asserting that there had been no testimony about the amount, purity or dosage of the substance or that it was capable of inducing death.

Deputy Belknap County Attorney Adam Woods, who is prosecuting the case, argued the state had met its burden of showing that Weil recklessly engaged in conduct that placed or could have placed another person in danger of serious bodily injury. Judge James D. O’Neill III ruled there was sufficient evidence for the case to go to the jury.

Earlier this month, the Trump administration released a safety training video for emergency responders that aims to dispel myths about the risks of minor exposure to fentanyl.

In the video, David Tarantino, a senior medical advisor with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said one myth is that touching any amount of the powerful synthetic opioid is likely to cause severe illness or even death.

Incidental skin contact can be washed off with soap and water, the video advises.

Closing arguments are scheduled to begin Thursday morning in Belknap County Superior Court with deliberations to follow.


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