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OxyContin Deaths In Florida - Students Sentenced

An Article By Terence T. Gorski
GORSKI-CENAPS Web Publications
Published On: <DATE>          Updated On: April 13, 2002
© Terence T. Gorski, 2001

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OxyContin Deaths In Florida - Students Sentenced 010730

GAINESVILLE — Two former University of Florida students who faced 15 years in prison in the death of a student who ingested the prescription painkiller OxyContin received drastically reduced sentences Monday as part of plea agreements.

Circuit Judge Larry Turner sentenced Ying Che “Dan” Lo to roughly three months in jail and his roommate, Naeem Diamond Lakhani, to about one month. They were also ordered to keep a photograph of freshman Matthew Kaminer on their night stands for the next 15 years.

Kaminer was a 19-year-old University of Florida freshman and a fraternity member who died in April 2000 after taking the potent, morphine-like painkiller.

Lo, 20, a pre-pharmacy student, was sentenced to serve 90 days in the Alachua County Jail after pleading guilty to a charge of manslaughter. He was also placed on two years house arrest, followed by 13 years of probation.

Lo, a former employee at an Eckerd’s drug store, took 124 OxyContin pills, and gave some to Lakhani, 19, who allegedly gave one of the pills to Kaminer.

Lakhani pleaded no contest to delivery of a controlled drug after State Attorney Bill Cervone amended the charge against him to manslaughter. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail and two years of house arrest followed by 13 years of probation.

Under both plea agreements, Lo and Lakhani must perform 120 hours of community service a year and give talks to high school and college students on the dangers of abusing prescription drugs.

At the request of Lillian Kaminer, Matthew’s mother, the two young men will be required to keep her son’s picture on their night stands to be reminded about their roles in his death.

“Young men do good,” Turner said. “Do it in the memory of this young man.”

Both Lo and Lakhani read statements apologizing to the Kaminer family.

“Every day I pray to God for forgiveness,” a sobbing Lo said. “I cried myself to sleep every night for the past year.”

“I lost a good friend. I have prayed for Matthew every day,” said Lakhani.

Kaminer was among the first wave of deaths linked to the potent synthetic morphine. OxyContin and other morphine-like drugs killed 152 people statewide during the final months of 2000.

In addition, more than 120 people nationwide have overdosed on the prescription drug.

The dead student’s mother also complained that the sentences were “very lenient.”

“I believe the defendants should receive a lifetime of consequences,” she said.

Authorities nationwide are cracking down on OxyContin abuse, but while hundreds have been charged with illegally prescribing or selling the pills, authorities in Florida have taken the matter further by pursuing manslaughter charges when users die.

OxyContin burst onto the national stage this spring with warnings from law enforcement and public health officials about the deadly results of misusing the drug, also known by its generic name oxycodone.

Last month, drug maker Purdue Pharma suspended shipments of its largest dose, the 160-milligram tablet, and took steps to make people aware of the dangers of the drug.

In Kaminer’s case, it wasn’t clear whether the dose he received was too large or if it exacerbated other health conditions - diabetes and a heart condition - revealed in the autopsy.

Kaminer died in his sleep on at the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity house after celebrating the Passover Seder with friends and going to a birthday party.

At first, his fraternity brothers assumed Kaminer died from drinking too much, including a glass of Seder wine.

Lo and Lakhani are not the first to be prosecuted. Last year, a Florida doctor was charged with manslaughter in the deaths of four patients he treated for pain.

Four others were charged with manslaughter in the death of a 13-year-old Florida girl given OxyContin at a party.

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