North Adams Woman Sentenced in Overdose Death
Dawn Cote, 44, was convicted of manslaughter and distribution of fentanyl on Sept. 25 by a Berkshire County jury for supplying Robinson with the drugs that lead to the 32-year-old North Adams woman's death in November 2005.
Judge John A. Agostini sentenced Cote to three to six years at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Cedar Junction on the manslaughter charge and a concurrent two- to six-year sentence at Cedar Junction on the distribution charge.
Original posting on Sept. 25, 2009:
North Adams Woman Convicted of Manslaughter in Overdose Death
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A North Adams woman was found guilty on Friday, Sept. 25, of manslaughter for the overdose death of 32-year-old Carlen Robinson in 2005. The conviction sounds a warning to drug dealers that they will be held responsible for the consequences of their dealing, said prosecutors.
"I am gratified by the jury's verdict," said District Attorney David F. Capeless in a statement. "Those who prey upon the addictions of others need to be held responsible. This was the first time that we had the evidence to prove who caused an overdose death, and it was important to send the message that we can, and will, prosecute these cases and obtain a conviction. "
Dawn Cote, 44, of Liberty Street was found guilty by a Berkshire Superior Court jury of single counts of manslaughter and distribution of Fentanyl, a powerful painkiller. The jury deliberated for about eight hours over two days before returning the verdict. She was charged in 2008.
Cote had sold 10 patches of the fentanyl to Robinson, a North Adams resident who was employed with the Brien Center, over a three-day period, from Nov. 8 to Nov. 11, 2005. Robinson died of an overdose of fentanyl on Nov. 11.
Robinson's mother, Lorraine, had testifed earlier this spring before the Massachusetts OxyContin and Heroin Commission that her daughter had become addicted to painkillers after serious complications from an operation in 2003. Her family had tried to manage her prescriptions and seek counseling but had run into privacy laws and other obstacles.
Cote's attorney, Timothy M. Farris, argued that the sale of the drugs could not be linked directly to his client and that Robinson had misused the patches; he also presented evidence that another drug found in her system could have interacted with the Fentanyl to make it more lethal.
First Assistant District Attorney Paul J. Caccaviello had countered the Cote was aware of her actions in selling the drugs to a woman she knew was an addict.
Judge John A. Agostini ordered that Cote be held without bail at the Berkshire County House of Correction pending sentencing at a later date
Capeless said the rising number of overdose deaths "call out for justice."
I am very proud of the exhaustive investigation that was led by State Police Trooper Brian Berkel, which uncovered the necessary evidence, and by the great job by First Assistant Paul Caccaviello in presenting the case to this jury and convincing them of that evidence," he said. "Together, we are grateful to those witnesses who stepped forward and made this prosecution possible. The jury was most attentive and obviously made a thoughtful decision in reaching their verdict, and I thank them for their service."
The investigation was conducted by members of the North Adams Police Department and state police detectives assigned to the district attorney's office.