I-TEAM: Possible plea deal for fentanyl murder suspect?
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - A family is making an 11th-hour plea to the Columbia County district attorney to reconsider a possible plea deal in a murder case.
It’s not just any murder case. Colin Magill’s arrest was the first of its kind in Columbia County.
Back in February, a grand jury indicted him on murder charges in the overdose of Alex King. Magill is accused of selling king pills laced with fentanyl.
This was supposed to send a powerful message to drug dealers, but four months later, King’s family is worried the DA is about to take it all back.
King’s stepfather, Bryan Lugo, says his family has a broken heart after what appears to be a change of heart by Columbia County District Attorney Bobby Christine, especially after the DA called a news conference to make an example out of this case:
“Why are we pursuing murder charges in a case like this? Because it is my belief that in some communities, lawbreakers don’t know where the red line in the sand is,” said Christine.
Lugo was standing next to Christine when it appeared he had drawn that line, announcing murder charges for the man accused of selling the 28-year-old a deadly dose of fentanyl.
“And God willing, prevent more parents from receiving such tragic news,” said Christine.
But now, Lugo says he learned the DA is offering Magill a plea deal.
Meredith: “How did you feel?”
“It was devastating. Devastating,” he said.
Lugo says that the deal he finds so devastating is for Magill to be able to plead guilty to distributing fentanyl instead of murder. A charge like that could carry anywhere from 5 to 30 years in prison, a decision ultimately made by a judge.
“I’m sure he has a very difficult choice to make. I’m here to build the support for the community to impress on him that we support you, you came in very strong, I want you to stand by your words,” he said.
Lugo saw those words as a promise to the community but also to his family that some good could come of King’s death.
“I want them to send the message that if you do this, we’re going to come after you. We’re not going to let you plead down because that diminishes what happens to those loved ones that are poisoned by these drugs,” said Lugo.
According to the Prescription Drug Abuse Policy System, only 23 states and the District of Columbia have explicit drug-induced homicide laws. Georgia is not one of them.
Even if Christine tried this as a murder case and lost, Lugo prefers that to a plea deal and hopes the DA would agree.
“At least I would think you would look inside yourself and say, we gave it a battle, and we did the right thing,” said Lugo.
Lugo believes the deal expires Tuesday, so he hopes Christine takes it off the table before then.
We did reach out to Christine. He did not confirm or deny any of this, but in an email said: “The status of the case is: ‘trial pending.’ We continue to prepare for trial. As with all cases, negotiations may be a part of that process.”
King’s dad, Sam King, released a statement:
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