SCRANTON, Pa. – The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of

Pennsylvania has announced that a Columbia County man pleaded guilty on June 3, 2019 in United States District Court in Williamsport, before United States District Court Judge Matthew W. Brann, to drug distribution resulting in death.

According to United States Attorney David J. Freed, James Mark Minichella, age 23 of Catawissa, Columbia County, Pa., knowingly and intentionally distributed and possessed with intent to distribute a controlled substance, heroin, a Schedule I Controlled Substance, and fentanyl, a Schedule II controlled substance, causing the death of another person.

The deadly distribution occurred on or about August 11, 2017 and resulted in the death of a 20-year old man.

The charges stem from a joint investigation involving the Drug Enforcement

Administration (DEA) in Scranton, and the Pennsylvania State Police - Troop N, Bloomsburg.

Prosecution is assigned to United States Attorney Michelle Olshefski.

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program that has been historically successful in bringing together all levels of law enforcement to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone.

The Department of Justice reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of the Department’s renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally-based strategies to reduce crime.

This case was brought as part of a district-wide initiative to combat the nationwide epidemic regarding the use and distribution of heroin and fentanyl. Led by the United States Attorney’s Office, the Heroin Initiative targets heroin traffickers operating in the Middle District of Pennsylvania and is part of a coordinated effort among federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who commit heroin-related offenses.

A sentence following a finding of guilt is imposed by the Judge after consideration of the applicable federal sentencing statutes and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. In this case, the maximum penalty under the federal statute for drug distribution resulting in death is life imprisonment and $1,000,000 fine.

Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the Judge is also required to consider and weigh a number of factors, including the nature and seriousness of the offense; the history and characteristics of the defendant; and the need to punish the defendant, protect the public, and provide for the defendant’s educational, vocational, and medical needs. For these reasons, the statutory maximum penalty for the offense is not an accurate indicator of the potential sentence for a specific defendant.