A Tunkhannock man was sentenced Thursday to 30 years in federal prison for selling fentanyl that killed a man and seriously injured another person.
The sentence for James Eugene Rought was within federal sentencing guidelines, but more than the 20-year sentence Rought’s attorney, Elliot Smith, sought.
Smith sought leniency for Rought, describing him as a low-level drug dealer who sold narcotics to support his own addiction and who did not intend to kill or injure the victims.
U.S. District Judge Malachy Mannion rejected that characterization, saying evidence showed Rought intentionally sold fentanyl even though he knew the potent drug was responsible for many fatal overdoses.
“Mr. Rought was a drug dealer who manipulated the system to benefit himself ... with the knowledge people were dying,” Mannion said.
A jury convicted Rought, 31, in October 2019 of distributing a controlled substance resulting in death for selling fentanyl that caused Dana Carichner to fatally overdose on Aug. 17, 2018. He also was convicted of distributing a controlled substance that caused serious bodily injury for selling fentanyl to Cara Giberson.
Giberson, who was friends with Carichner, briefly addressed the court, describing him as a person who had a “heart of gold.” She lambasted Rought, saying he has shown no remorse.
“There are things I can no longer share with my best friend because of you, James,” she said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Olshefski sought a 30-year-sentence or more, arguing Rought had an extensive criminal history dating back to age 15. She said numerous agencies tried to help him, but he rejected those efforts and instead schemed to beat the system.
Fentanyl is a powerful narcotic that is largely blamed for the huge spike in fatal drug overdoses in recent years. It often is mixed with heroin. Rought opted to sell straight fentanyl because he knew that, at the time, drug tests used by probation and parole agents could not detect the substance, Olshefski said.
Speaking after the hearing, Giberson said she was satisfied with the sentence. She said she continues to rebuild her life and has been clean since her near-fatal overdose.
“I have a wonderful life now,” she said.