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Silver Summit • The Park City boy accused of buying and distributing the synthetic opioid known as "pink" leading to the death last year of two 13-year-old boys admitted on Friday morning to misdemeanor reckless endangerment during a highly charged and emotional disposition hearing.
In exchange for the boy's admissions in 3rd District Juvenile Court, prosecutors dropped a charge of second-degree felony distribution of a controlled or counterfeit substance. At the time of its online purchase and distribution last year, Pink had not yet been made temporarily illegal as a "Schedule 1" drug by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
"I started using drugs and got addicted," the boy, 16, told Judge Elizabeth Knight. "We got desperate to get more opiates, so we decided to order them online. I now realize how dangerous this was. I used [Pink] and became sick myself. My friends used it, too."
Knight ordered the boy who was 15 when the drug was ordered from China last year to complete a residential drug treatment program, in which he already has been participating for seven months. The Salt Lake Tribune does not identify juveniles charged with crimes, unless they are certified to stand trial in adult court.
The boy also must do 80 hours of community service, pay a $175 fine and complete probation, which will include random drug tests. He will face 30 days of detention if he tests positive for drugs or violates any other terms of the sentence, Knight said.
The boy was charged in connection to the September deaths of two 13-year-old boys, Grant Seaver and Ryan Ainsworth. They were best friends who attended Treasure Mountain Junior High School in Park City.
Police said Seaver and Ainsworth died from "acute drug intoxication" from Pink, a powdered substance which is also known as "pinkie" and "U-47700."
"I did not directly give the drug to Grant or Ryan, but I ordered the drug and feel awful about what happened," the boy said Friday, adding that he is aware that "sorry will never be enough."
Parents of the 13-year-olds gave emotional impact statements, telling of the bright futures they wished their sons could have lived out.
Through tears, Deborah Seaver said her son was a "sweet little boy" who "thought he was cool," and tried to act like an adult, yet was still "so naive." She said he was a good student and loved the outdoors.
"Whatever he would've amounted to, nobody knows," she said.
Gillian Ainsworth said she cries every day. Sometimes the weight of her son's death becomes "intolerable," she said, thinking about what kind of man he would have become. Addressing the defendant, she said he'd made "poor choices," though she appreciated the apology.
The boy sat beside his attorney, Tara Isaacson, appearing to be on the verge of tears.
An angry Jim Seaver was less ready to accept an apology. He said that he felt the Park City Police Department had not given his family the whole story on the defendant's history with drugs.
"Essentially, three 10th grade students conspired to buy drugs that killed two 13-year-olds [who were] in 8th grade for 10 days," he said.
The defendant's mother yelled out several times during Jim Seaver's statement, and was admonished by a bailiff. On the way back to his seat, Seaver and the defendant's father locked eyes, with a bailiff again stepping in to diffuse the situation.
Officials say Pink is eight times more potent than heroin, and part of a group of deadly synthetic opioids that includes ifentanyl, carfentanil and others.
The DEA late last year made pink temporarily illegal, lasting at least two years, to allow time for a more thorough evaluation that will determine if it should be permanently banned. The agency said at the time of its announcement that it had received nearly 50 reports of deaths tied to its use.
"Unfortunately, we're seeing more and more drugs being developed overseas," the defense attorney Isaacson told the court. "These kids had the idea of [ordering] opiates because they had difficulty finding them in the community."
Following the hearing, Deputy Summit County Attorney Patricia Cassell said the misdemeanor reckless endangerment was "the most appropriate charge."
"He recklessly ordered and had delivered this controlled substance that caused the death of the two boys that is, in our opinion, the most important charge, and the one that really describes most accurately what he did," Cassell said. "Additionally, proving whether or not this was a controlled substance, because it wasn't illegal at the time, would've proven difficult."
If the case had gone to trial, Cassell figures prosecutors would've likely "ended up in exactly the same place," convicting the boy of reckless endangerment.
"I've done a lot of sad cases," the prosecutor said. "But this one impacted everybody. And it continues to impact kids. We continue to hear from kids in the community, that this event ... impacted their behaviors. They lost friends, classmates. Because it's a small community, the impact was so much greater."
Calling the case a "tragedy," Judge Knight told the boy that last year's events "will follow you forever."