On Monday, a judge gave a Hopkins man life in prison for his role in the 2016 deaths of 11 people, including a professor from the University of Minnesota.
In the United States, a jury must decide a case. Late in March, a St. Paul, Minnesota, district court convicted 32-year-old Aaron Broussard for running a chemical trafficking operation out of his tiny apartment by purchasing chemicals from a lab in China and passing them off as plant food.
Overdoses from what was assumed to be an Adderall knock-off dubbed F-4A but was actually a mixture containing 99% pure fentanyl killed or critically injured at least 16 individuals in 2016.
Senior U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson commended the victims and their families for their courage during impact statements they submitted to the court during sentencing. She warned Broussard that his callousness toward human life was terrifying.
U.S. officials said in a statement. As Aaron Broussard’s attorney, Andrew Luger, put it, “Eleven lives lost. Families, friends, and communities forever changed by the devastation brought on by Aaron Broussard’s deadly fentanyl. Although the trauma felt by the victims can never be undone and the true cost can never be calculated, Mr. Broussard will now spend the remainder of his life behind bars.”
Broussard was found guilty on all counts, including conspiracy and several counts of distribution of fentanyl resulting in bodily damage or death, after a jury deliberated for less than a full day in March.
Before sentencing, Broussard’s attorney Aaron Morrison argued for a 20-year prison term, saying his client “did not realize he was delivering fentanyl to the victims,” which is “a product capable of inflicting near instantaneous death.”
Morrison said that a 20-year sentence was appropriate because it was “consistent with the sentencing occurring in similar cases around the country” and because Broussard “deserves a shot at rehabilitation, a chance to find his way to atonement.”
In their response filing, prosecutors said they believed a life sentence was appropriate.
Their filing stated, “It is impossible to conceive a more serious drug case.” At least eleven individuals were killed and many more were injured as a direct result of the defendant’s drug trafficking activities, however he has showed no remorse for his acts.
The prosecution claims that Broussard continued to provide potentially lethal quantities to customers even after he knew that some of his customers had become critically ill.
The deceased “were snatched from this world without knowing that they were dealing with a person who cared nothing about them and only about the income he was generating from selling drugs,” the lawsuit added. Those lucky enough to have made it through will carry the psychological and bodily scars of their ordeal with them forever.
On April 14, 2016, Jason Beddow, a 41-year-old award-winning agricultural economist at the University of Minnesota, was discovered dead in his office. According to his web obituary, he traveled the world for employment, conducting studies in such diverse locations as Australia, Africa, Europe, the Far East, and South America.
In response to the news of Beddow’s passing, South African economist Hans Binswanger-Mkhize wrote a condolence letter to the school, which read:
“Jason was such a bright, compassionate, and dedicated human being and scholar with such tremendous potential yet to be realized. He shepherded me from [the] airport to your campus, through the lecture, and to beautiful meals just a few weeks ago.”
Theodore Trotman, who survived an overdose, told the court in a victim impact statement that he was rendered legally blind and speechless as a result of taking the medication that Broussard had sold him.
To paraphrase, “Before my injuries, I was a university instructor, a great linguist, and a powerlifter,” Trotman added. As someone who had just started a promising new career, this was devastating news: “I can no longer interview for positions…. I cannot fairly quantify the financial damage to my life.”
From the Chinese pharmaceutical company Topkey Pharmaceutical Chemicals, Broussard purchased 100 grams of 4-FA in March of 2016. Morrison claimed Broussard was unaware the cargo contained fentanyl, which is fatal at considerably lower concentrations than amphetamine.
Broussard’s attorney claimed in his March closing argument that his client thought he had found a way to legally sell drugs online by passing them off as plant food. Morrison claimed that the prosecution hadn’t provided conclusive evidence that Broussard’s medications were responsible for the deaths, and instead suggested that the victims may have overdosed on fentanyl or other narcotics purchased elsewhere.
After receiving repeated cautions from the lab to test the medicine mixture, Broussard allegedly disregarded the concerns of consumers who wondered if he had sent out a defective batch. One client even contacted Broussard after spending three days in the intensive care unit of a hospital.
Many of Broussard’s online customers were found dead next to the Mylar bags bearing the company logo for Plant Food USA, which he had been using to mail the medications to them.