A Leesburg man on Wednesday admitted in federal court that he sold oxycodone pills to high school students and recent high school graduates in Loudoun County over several years.

George Washington Crane V, 48, had initially faced a charge linked to the death of one user who overdosed, 20-year-old William Huff. But Crane pleaded guilty Wednesday to a less serious drug-distribution charge that had no explicit connection to Huff’s death.

That the charge was modified is significant. Crane had faced a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years if he had been convicted of the initial charge, and because of previous drug convictions, he could have faced a mandatory minimum of life in prison, said Greg English, his defense attorney. Now Crane faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and no mandatory minimum, English said.

English said the deal was a product of Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.’s recent directive telling U.S. attorneys across the country to stop charging low-level, nonviolent drug offenders with offenses that impose severe mandatory sentences.

English said Crane didn’t directly sell Huff the drugs that led to his death.

“It’s a fair resolution,” he said. “He sold [oxycodone] to somebody that he had sold to many times before. . . . He didn’t know it was going to Huff.”

Federal District Court Judge Liam O’Grady said in court that he had rejected an earlier plea deal that would have given Crane a 15-year sentence. A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in the Eastern District of Virginia declined to comment.

Crane, who worked as a limousine driver, admitted as part of his plea that he was involved in a network that spread oxycodone, an addictive drug used as a painkiller, to young people in Loudoun County, and that he sold the drugs that Huff eventually used to overdose. He acknowledged in response to questions from O’Grady that from 2008 to 2011, he purchased pills from people in the District and Baltimore, then distributed them out of his home or car to high school students and recent graduates in the Leesburg area.

Some customers, Crane told O’Grady, bought from him everyday, and one person purchased 40 to 60 oxycodone pills a week. English said that Crane, at some point, had a legitimate prescription for the pills, became addicted and then bought and sold to support his habit.

Crane’s connection to Huff’s death, though, was somewhat roundabout. English said he was unsure if Crane even knew Huff, and the drugs that eventually killed Huff filtered through other people after they left Crane’s hands. Huff had just returned to his parents’ Leesburg home from a drug rehabilitation program when he took the fatal dose, court filings show.

The hearing in a near-empty federal district courtroom in Alexandria lasted less than a half hour, and Crane, dressed in a green jumpsuit with the word “prisoner” on the back, said little more than “Yes, sir” and “No, sir.” Two family members of Huff declined to comment after the hearing; one of them, a woman, dabbed tears from her eyes.

Two others had already pleaded guilty in connection with the case — also to charges that did not explicitly connect them to Huff’s death. John George, a friend of Huff’s who gave Huff oxycodone pills only hours before he overdosed, pleaded guilty in April 2012 to conspiracy to distribute oxycodone and was later sentenced to four years in prison.

Bruce Jacob Horton, who was part of the same network selling oxycodone and oxymorphone in Loudoun County, pleaded guilty in February 2012 to conspiracy to distribute oxycodone and oxymorphone and also was later sentenced to four years in prison.

Crane is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 20.