NEW: Judge Sentences Man To Two Decades In Prison For Drug Death

Posted: April 17, 2014

Daily News-Record

A city man will serve 20 years in federal prison for supplying heroin to a Harrisonburg man who died of an overdose in 2011.

During a hearing Thursday in U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg, Judge Michael Urbanski handed down the stiff sentence to Jean Paul Alvarado for his role in the death of 33-year-old Eric Thomas.

Alvarado, 32, was convicted following a jury trial on May 16, 2013, of knowingly and intentionally distributing a mixture and substance containing heroin, resulting in serious bodily injury and death.

Thomas died in Harrisonburg on March 29, 2011.

Urbanski, saying the crime demanded a “severe penalty,” said the 20-year prison term is sufficient to act as a deterrent and protect the public.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Grayson Hoffman, who prosecuted this case, had asked the court to impose a prison term of 24 years and 4 months. Hoffman pointed out the defendant had two prior narcotics convictions.

Alvarado was charged with possession of cocaine in July 2009, but placed on probation. He also sold cocaine to a confidential informant in a controlled purchase conducted by the RUSH Drug Task Force in March 2010, but was not arrested until the following year.

Andrea Harris, assistant federal public defender, who represented Alvarado, told the court 20 years in prison is “greater than necessary,” but she acknowledged it is the mandatory-minimum term under the law.

Alvarado apologized for his actions, saying his “heart and prayers” go out to Thomas’ family. He said he has improved his life in several ways since his arrest on March 30, 2011 — the day after Thomas died.

While incarcerated, Alvarado has focused on obtaining his GED and receiving certificates for completing multiple courses, as well as being baptized and leading a Bible study class, according to Harris.

But Urbanski stressed that the 20-year prison sentence was appropriate for this case. He pointed out Alvarado had not spent a single day in jail before providing the drug that resulted in Thomas’ death.

Urbanski said the prison sentence will be followed by a three-year term of supervised release. He did not impose a fine, citing the defendant’s inability to pay it.

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