LACONIA — A judge has granted a prosecutor 60 days to retain an expert who will support the state’s contention that by blowing fentanyl powder into the air an Alton man recklessly endangered a police officer.
Last August, Eric Weil, 50, a painter by profession, called 911 and ended up being arrested for reckless conduct — a felony that could land him behind bars for 3½ to 7 years.
His legal woes began 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 house. When Weil’s girlfriend Belinda encountered the man actively engaged in drug use in their guest bedroom, Weil called 911 and Alton police arrived.
As officers approached his house, Weil came down the porch steps and tried to hand over an open square of paper containing a white powder he’d found in the guestroom, but was repeatedly told to drop it in his unpaved driveway, which he did.
But after his girlfriend said several times that she was fearful their Yorkshire terrier, or their free ranging chickens would be exposed, he picked it up again. As he lifted it off the ground, some powder got on his index finger and he blew it off.
Police charged that officer Jamie Fellows was exposed to “a large cloud” of fentanyl and he complained he felt something drip down the back of his throat, and later of a headache.
An emergency medical technician with Alton Fire Rescue testified that Fellows’ breathing was normal when he was examined and that after sharing the officer’s vital signs with a doctor it was determined that Fellows did not need treatment and had “no apparent illness or injury.”
During closing arguments to a jury in September, the prosecutor said as the state is in the midst of an opioid crisis Weil should have known the substance was dangerous and that he disregarded the risk by blowing it into the air. The jury returned a guilty verdict.
Defense attorney Harry Starbranch Jr. filed a motion to overturn the verdict arguing there was no evidence that the opioid was a deadly weapon or that Fellows ingested any of it.
On Nov. 1, Judge James D. O’Neill set aside the verdict and Deputy Belknap County Attorney Adam Woods pledged to retry the case.
During a hearing to determine when a jury will be picked and the date the second trial would start, the prosecutor asked for added time to prepare his case, citing the judge’s ruling for his request to find and consult with an expert.
Under questioning by the judge, Starbranch said he took no position on the state’s request for a continuance and indicated that he would be filing a motion to either dismiss the case outright or to suppress the evidence. The judge set a 30-day deadline for that filing.
A reckless conduct charge is typically reserved for firing a gun near people or using a vehicle as a deadly weapon.
On Dec. 21, Jeremy King, 32, of 20 School Street, Apt. 2, Ashland, who allegedly fired six shots from a Beretta handgun into a densely settled area, was indicted for reckless conduct by a Grafton County grand jury.
On Dec. 6, Jaylen Meas, 19, of 43 Standish Way, Amherst, was indicted for reckless conduct by a Belknap County grand jury for driving the wrong way on I-93 in Sanbornton on Sept. 9, conduct which placed or may have placed another in danger of serious bodily injury.