New involuntary manslaughter bill focuses on drug dealers, options for judges

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - If a bill currently introduced in the Ohio State House becomes law, it would change the state's involuntary manslaughter law in regards to drug users and dealers.

Currently, involuntary manslaughter is a first-degree felony punishable from three to 11 years in prison. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jonathan Dever, would change that and make the maximum penalty 20 years in prison. More importantly, Dever said, it would give judges more discretion in how they impose sentences.

The bill, Dever said, takes out part of the current law that calls for 'foresee-ability' -- that a dealer would have to foresee his or her actions could lead to death.

"The current (phrasing) doesn't give the judge a lot of options," said Dever.

The bill also would give judges a wide range of sentences. They would range from community control to a fine or anywhere from one to 20 years in prison. Dever said the bill is intended to allow judges to determine varying punishments based on the individual facts of each individual case.

Under the current involuntary manslaughter law, northeast Ohio has seen several cases end in prison sentences.

The apparent drug overdose death of 16-year-old Andrew Frye, the boy found dead one year ago in a Green hotel room, ended with two guilty pleas from his mother and grandmother. Each of the women were sentenced to nine years in prison for the boy's death.

A Summit County judge told his mother, Heather Frye, and grandmother Brenda Frye at their sentencing that: "The ultimate price was not paid by either of you. The ultimate price was paid by Andrew."

In a different courtroom nearly a year later, Derrick Sales plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to eight years in prison. Sales was responsible for selling the drugs that Sheena Moore overdosed on. The prosecutor in Sales' case spelled out the balance that his office has to strike when dealing with a case like Sales', telling the judge in the case he felt the eight year plea bargain was a good sentence.

"In analysis get the facts in this case and the evidence in this case we feel as though the surety of a conviction and the solace that Mr. Sales is going to be in prison for the next eight years without the opportunity to sell these drugs on the streets something we feel comfortable with and something we can live with," said the prosecutor.

Copyright 2017 WOIO. All rights reserved.