LACONIA — Belknap County has quietly dropped plans to seek a new trial for an informant accused of recklessly endangering police when he blew fentanyl powder from his fingers.
Last fall, a jury found Eric Weil, 50, a painting contractor, guilty of reckless conduct for the incident, but the trial judge in a rare move set aside a guilty verdict as unsupported by the evidence.
Assistant Belknap County Attorney Adam Woods vowed to retry Weil and was given 60 days to retain an expert who might lend credence to the contention the blown fentanyl endangered police. Court records now show the charge was formally dropped Feb. 11.
Woods did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment, but Weil’s girlfriend, Belinda McLin, was happy to talk.
“We’re ecstatic and definitely relieved,” she said. The case has been costly, with nearly $25,000 in legal expenses plus the physiological toll.
“The stress of the whole thing has really been difficult,” she said.
Weil’s legal woes began soon after he agreed to take in a friend’s son who was struggling with addiction on the condition that no drugs be brought into his home. After McLin witnessed the man actively engaged in drug use in the guest bedroom, Weil called 911 to summon Alton police.
Weil testified that as officers approached his Gilman Road home, he came down the porch steps and attempted to hand over an open square of paper containing a white powder he’d found in the guest bedroom. He told police it needed to be tested as it was what his house guest had ingested.
Police repeatedly shouted for him to drop it in his unpaved driveway, which he did.
After McLin expressed concern several times that their Yorkshire terrier, or their free ranging chicken would be exposed, he picked it up again and in doing so got some of the powder on his index finger, which he blew off.
Police would later claim that Officer Jamie Fellows was exposed to “a large cloud” of fentanyl, complained he felt something drip down the back of his throat and later experienced a headache.
But an emergency medical technician with Alton Fire Rescue testifies that Officer Fellows breathing was normal when examined and in consultation with a doctor determined that Fellows did not need treatment and suffered “no apparent illness or injury.”
McLin said Tuesday, that at the time she was standing closer to Eric Weil than the officer who claimed to have been made ill, yet police expressed zero concern for her potential exposure.
“If that substance was so deadly, that kid would have been dead,” she said of the man she discovered snorting it.
“There are some really shady things going on in Alton. Somebody needs to investigate. There is an ethics issue,” McLin declared.
The indictment returned in Dec. 2017, charged that the fentanyl was a deadly weapon, “in the manner in which it was used, intended to be used or threatened to be used, is known to be capable of producing death or serious bodily injury.”
During closing arguments to the jury last year, Woods argued that because the state is in the midst of an opioid overdose crisis, Weil should have known the substance was dangerous and that he had intentionally disregarded the risk by blowing it into the air.
The jury apparently believed that claim, finding Weil guilty on Sept. 13, 2018, of charges that could have sent him to prison for 3.5 to 7 years.
But Defense Attorney Harry Starbranch Jr. of Portsmouth filed a motion to overturn the verdict arguing there was no evidence that the opioid was a deadly weapon or that Officer Fellows ingested any of it.
On Nov. 1, Judge James D. O’Neill III set aside the verdict.