A longtime D.C. drug dealer whose heroin was linked by authorities to the deaths of three young users was sentenced to 30 years in prison Friday — a stiff term that spurred his family to storm out of court and berate the judge who imposed it as the dealer stared forward in disbelief.
“The rest of my life?” Eugene Asomani Williams, 35, said to the judge in federal District Court in Alexandria. “I would rather just die.”
The dramatic conclusion was, in some ways, a fitting end to a case full of emotion. Williams pleaded guilty in January to conspiring to distribute heroin and to a related gun charge.
In asking that Williams face a term of 35 years, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Ben’Ary stressed the “tragic” nature of the case and described the harrowing circumstances under which each victim died after using heroin sold by Williams.
“There’s no question that these people made their choices,” Ben’Ary told the judge. “But the cause, in fact, of these tragedies is this defendant: He was their dealer.”
Those who died — Timothy Huffman, Kara Schachinger and Josh Pearson — were strangers to one another in life, linked only by their addiction to heroin.
Huffman, 23, was a doting father and Army soldier, known back home in the South for his love of video games and mud riding. He overdosed in January 2012, and his young daughter had to bid her father goodbye as he lay brain-dead in a hospital, Ben’Ary said.
Schachinger, 22, was a striking young woman from the Fairfax County community of Mantua, Va., who wrote poetry and dreamed of becoming a chef. She injected herself with heroin in a bathtub in February 2012 and drowned after she slipped beneath the water. Ben’Ary said her mother found her after breaking into the locked room.
Pearson, 33, was an avid Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan who never shied away from a political debate and took in family members when they needed a place to stay. He overdosed on a combination of heroin and another drug at a friend’s house in April 2013.
Ann Schachinger, Kara Schachinger’s mother, said she didn’t blame Williams completely for her daughter’s death but believed that justice had been done.
“He’s off the streets,” Schachinger said. “I have no doubt in my mind that if he were to come out sooner, he’d be right back on the streets.”
Ellen Pearson, Pearson’s mother, said she was also happy with the outcome. “It’s some closure, and I’m quite pleased that he got that,” she said.
Todd Baldwin, Williams’s defense attorney, had sought a prison term of 15 years — the mandatory minimum. He argued in court that his client was a “good man” who, despite a tumultuous upbringing, was a loving husband and father of several children. He said that Williams shouldn’t be blamed for the deaths simply because he sold heroin.
While Schachinger and Huffman met Williams in person to buy their last doses, Pearson got his through a friend, court records show.
“Mr. Williams — I think the court knows and understands — never intended anyone to die from this,” Baldwin said.
Williams said he was “extremely apologetic” for what had happened.
“Drugs, what they call the drug game, it allows no winners, and I’m tired of it,” he said.
Federal District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema, though, was largely unmoved. The argument that Williams did not intend to kill anyone “doesn’t ring completely true,” she said, because he knew how deadly heroin could be. She said she would impose a 360-month sentence to deter him and other drug dealers from selling the dangerous narcotic.
When Williams asked her to repeat the sentence — and she recited it as 30 years — several of his family members, sobbing and cursing, rushed out. As Williams’s mother, Vera M. Williams Cutter, left, she turned and shouted at Brinkema.
“These people had a habit,” she said. “You know it’s wrong.”
As the commotion continued outside, Brinkema asked the federal agents who worked the case to clear the hallway, and they, too, hurried out of the courtroom. A few of Williams’s family members who stayed behind declined to comment after the hearing. Baldwin said he would explore what legal options were available to seek to modify the sentence.
“If there’s a way to ask for a reduction of the sentence, we will,” he said. “I think it was harsh, and I understand the tragedy of the people who died, but I also think Mr. Williams should have been sentenced on his intended criminal actions, which was selling heroin, and things beyond his control, he should not be sentenced on.”