A Lycoming County man was found not guilty Wednesday of two felony charges directly tied to a fatal drug overdose in Snow Shoe last year.
Seven women and five men deliberated for more than four hours before acquitting Savoy Jennings of one felony count of drug delivery resulting in death and one misdemeanor count of recklessly endangering another person.
Jennings, 27, was convicted of two felony counts of possession with intent to deliver and one felony count of criminal use of a communication facility. He is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 17.
“Mr. Jennings is not criminally responsible for the death of Michael Vivian. The result does not diminish the tragedy of another young life lost to untreated addiction, or the very hard work of the prosecutors in seeking justice for Mr. Vivian,” defense lawyer Steve Trialonas said in a statement. “There are simply others involved who are more culpable than my client in causing Mr. Vivian’s death.”
Jennings was the first of four people charged in connection with Vivian’s death to go to trial.
Jada Ferguson, 32, of Clinton County; Chelsea Mehalick, 31, of State College and Troy Decker, 44, of Moshannon, are all in the midst of plea negotiations, according to court documents.
“The verdict represents the considered, careful attention of the jurors throughout trial,” Centre County Deputy District Attorney Sean McGraw said. “... We thank those 12 members of our community for their service in the pursuit of justice.”
State police at Rockview in November accused Jennings of selling more than 20 bags of heroin with fentanyl to Ferguson, who then shared the drugs with 34-year-old Vivian and Mehalick. The trio returned to Snow Shoe from Williamsport, according to an affidavit of probable cause filed by police.
Vivian was unconscious, and the group dragged his body into a residence, where Ferguson unsuccessfully attempted to revive him, police wrote. He died of a multi-drug overdose, forensic pathologist Harry Kamerow testified Monday.
Mehalick said Ferguson was “freaking out,” but did not call for help because she and Vivian had active warrants for their arrest, according to the affidavit.
Vivian was one of 22 people to die of a drug overdose death in Centre County last year.
McGraw described Vivian, Ferguson and Mehalick as addicts during his opening statement Monday. Ferguson, McGraw said, became addicted to heroin after she was prescribed pain pills.
Her addiction once prompted her to move to Lycoming County so she was closer to a more prevalent supply, he said.
Police believed Jennings, meanwhile, was “part of a larger narcotics distributing network” centered in Philadelphia.
The opioid crisis is a complicated social problem that requires community involvement and education, Trialonas said.
“If there is one takeaway from this case, it is that medical help should be called immediately if someone is experiencing overdose symptoms,” he said.