FARGO, N.D. (AP) — The sentencing of a man who worked for a Texas company that sold the chemicals traced to the synthetic drug deaths of two North Dakota teenagers has been postponed.
John Polinski, 26, of Houston, is the last of 15 people to be convicted in a case that federal authorities dubbed “Operation Stolen Youth.” Polinski’s attorney is asking that his client get no more than 10 years in prison.
Polinski was scheduled to be sentenced on a conspiracy charge Monday, but the U.S. Attorney’s Office says it has been rescheduled for July 21.
Christian Bjerk, 18, of Grand Forks, and Elijah Stai, 17, of Park Rapids, Minnesota, died within a week of each other in June 2012. Authorities said Bjerk and Stai ingested hallucinogens that were cooked up by Andrew Spofford, who bought the chemicals from Houston-based Motion Resources LLC.
Polinski handled information technology and other business operations for Motion Resources, and authorities say he knew the chemicals being sold were dangerous.
Polinski pleaded guilty in April to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, but the government has agreed to give Polinski credit for cooperating with authorities.
Court documents filed by Polinski’s court-appointed lawyer said he played a “very minor role” in the company and did not have any decision-making authority.
Defense attorney Richard Henderson said in court documents that Polinski would not have taken the job if he was “aware of the seriousness of the situation he was getting himself into.” Polinski discovered later that people were ingesting the chemicals, the lawyer said.
“He was aware that chemicals sold to Andrew Spofford had been distributed to others, resulting in two fatalities,” Henderson wrote. “He admitted that the company continued selling chemicals after the Spofford case came to its attention. He also admitted that he personally used the chemicals to get ‘high’ on several occasions.”
One of Polinski’s bosses, Charles Carlton, pleaded guilty to three counts, including conspiracy to distribute controlled substances resulting in serious bodily injury and death. He’s also scheduled to be sentenced July 21.
Spofford, a self-described hobby chemist, was sentenced to 17 1/2 years in prison, the stiffest penalty in the case so far. He said during his sentencing that he thinks of Bjerk and Stai every day.
“I wish I could say something to make it better for anyone in here,” he said.
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