BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — A Birmingham man pleaded guilty in federal court on Monday to distributing fentanyl, a drug implicated in the death of a 20-year-old Pelham woman, according to a release from U.S. Attorney Robert O. Posey and DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge Bret Hamilton.
Rodrigus Lee Pearson, 31, pleaded guilty to the charge of illegally distributing fentanyl, which resulted in the January 2016 death. Pearson also pleaded guilty to distributing heroin on Feb 8. 2016, distributing fentanyl on Feb. 23, 2016, possessing with intent to distribute heroin, cocaine and crack cocaine on March 30, 2016, and being a felon illegally possessing a gun on March 30, 2016.
According to Posey, in 2016 the Jefferson County medical examiner’s office reported 106 overdose deaths caused by fentanyl and 100 by heroin, with 40 of those deaths caused by a combination of the two drugs. Deaths from more than doubled from 49 in 2015.
Pearson has a previous conviction in Jefferson County Circuit Court in Sep. 2014 for unlawful possession of a controlled substance. He entered a binding plea agreement with the government that stipulated a 20-year sentence for distributing an opioid drug that resulted in death.
Pearson’s sentencing is scheduled for July 12. A 20-year prison sentence is the maximum penalty for heroin and fentanyl distribution charges, and 10 years is the maximum sentence for being a felon in possession of a firearm.
“Fentanyl kills in tiny doses – a few salt-sized grains. Most fentanyl on the streets is being made illegally in drug-dealer labs, and here and across the country overdose deaths soar as dealers add fentanyl to heroin to make it more potent,” Posey wrote in the statement. “We are committed to our work with DEA and other law enforcement partners to aggressively prosecute those who traffic these deadly drugs.”