Warren man sentenced in fentanyl overdose death

A Warren man will spend more time in the county jail on drug and involuntary manslaughter charges stemming from a December fentanyl overdose death.

Christian L. Papalia, 19, was sentenced Friday morning by President Judge Maureen Skerda.

His attorney, Chad Vilushis, acknowledged up front that the victim’s family will “continue to endure loss” and that an apology from his client won’t bring the victim back. He said that Papalia, the victim and others went to Erie to purchase what they believed to be Percocet because the prices there were cheaper than in Warren.

Vilushis said the individuals split up the pills and “one of two pills given to (the victim) killed him.”

He stressed that Papalia accepted responsibility as quickly as possible and “stands before you today with no excuse.”

“Very few cases I’ve had affect you the way this one does,” District Attorney Rob Greene said. “What can I say?”

He said that the county Drug Task Force is “severely going after” fentanyl, which is often disguised, cheaper to make and produces a better high.

Papalia was initially charged with drug delivery resulting in death and Greene said that would have brought 10 years in state prison.

“The Commonwealth did not believe that charge was appropriate,” Greene said, citing Papalia’s lack of a prior record and his friendship with the victim. “Unfortunately, the results of what happened bring us here today.”

Calling the plea terms “appropriate,” Grene said that “this nightmare is never going to end for” the victim’s family.

Papalia apologized to the victim’s family and said he wishes he could change places with the victim.

“He was one of my good friends,” he said of the victim. “We all grew up together.”

He told the court he started using drugs in seventh grade and never sought treatment because he “never thought it was bad enough until now.”

“Fentanyl is rampaging this county,” Skerda said. “The court recognizes you need to be held accountable for your actions.”

She said it was “clear” that Papalia did not know the effects “until it was too late” but also that the victim’s family “has suffered immensely. People have lost a brother, friend, child, boyfriend.

“At 19, you have the potential to change but it’s a long road ahead of you.”

Papalia was sentenced to a total of 15 months incarceration (with credit for 106 days time served) followed by nine months of house arrest and then eight years of probation supervision.

Other terms of the sentence include the following: $2,125 in fines and fees, $6,361.34 in restitution, 200 hours of community service, submission of a DNA sample and compliance with drug and alcohol treatment recommendations on charges of possession with intent to deliver and involuntary manslaughter.


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