BEAVER COUNTY, Pa. — Emotions ran high at the Beaver County courthouse today, where convicted drug dealer Lucas Ropon, 25, learned his punishment for causing the deaths of two young men.
Nathan Smith, 19, and Jordan Martin, 21, died within two months of each other because Ropon sold them deadly fentanyl pills, claiming they were Percocet.
11 Investigates reporter Angie Moreschi has been bringing us exclusive reports about this case all week and was in the courtroom today.
After a two-hour hearing where 10 family members read emotional victim impact statements and the defendant apologized the families, the judge decided to accept the prosecution’s recommendation for a reduced sentence in a plea deal.
Ropon pleaded guilty to two counts of drug delivery resulting death, which carries a maximum sentence of 80 years in prison, but with the judge’s decision today could be back out on the street in 4.5 years.
“I was shocked, heartbroken,” victim Nathan Smith’s mom said after the hearing.
Jada Martin, 20, told 11 Investigates, “Lucas gets to go on and be with his family whenever. We won’t get my brother back.”
Jordan Martin’s father walked out after the judge announced his decision, saying he was too angry to sit there any longer.
“I wasn’t as surprised by the judge as I was the district attorney,” Martin said. “It seemed like the attorney was on his side fighting for him instead of fighting for us.”
Assistant District Attorney Bart Wischowski, who handled this case, told the court his office considered multiple factors to come up with Ropon’s recommended sentence, including his age, lack of a criminal record, remorse and willingness to seek drug treatment.
The district attorney’s office has told 11 Investigates the sentencing recommendation followed state sentencing guidelines.
Emotions ran high
More than 50 loved ones and friends of the victims’ families gathered outside the courthouse before the sentencing, hopeful the judge would reject the district attorney’s recommended sentence and issue a tougher one.
“The time they’ve given him doesn’t fit the crime that he committed. He knowingly and willingly gave out pills that he knows kill,” said Owen Martin, the father of victim Jordan Martin.
One family member after another sat in the witness chair at the front of the courtroom and read emotional victim impact statements, talking about their daily pain, hurt and anger.
“No parent should ever have to go through this pain,” April Martin said to Ropon, asking the judge to consider harsher punishment.
The judge told the family members he heard their pain but said he had to stick by state guidelines for the sentence, which indicate 4.5 to 9 years is the average for drug delivery resulting in death cases.
Throughout the hearing, Ropon did not look directly at the victims’ families as they addressed him while reading their victim impact statements.
After they finished, Ropon also read a statement to the court and apologized to the families. His hands shaking as he read the handwritten statement, Ropon said in part, “I know there’s nothing I can say to make the families feel better, but I want to express how sorry and regretful I am.”
Nathan Smith’s mom refused to listen to Ropon’s statement, walking out before he read it.
After the judge announced his decision on the sentence, Ropon was taken into custody and ushered out in handcuffs to begin serving his 4.5 years in prison.
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