South Carolina

Rock Hill man had chance at probation for opioid Fentanyl. Until a drug test in court

A Rock Hill man who had a chance at probation for illegal possession of the opioid drug Fentanyl was sentenced to five years in prison after failing a drug test ordered by a judge in court, lawyers in the case said.

Clayton Henry Geiger, 27, pleaded guilty Wednesday in York County criminal court to possession of Fentanyl with intent to distribute after he was arrested in 2018, records show. Geiger had 93 pills that initially were believed to be Oxycodone, another opioid drug, said 16th Circuit Assistant Solicitor Matthew Hogge. But when tested, the pills contained more than 12 grams of pure Fentanyl, Hogge said.

Fentanyl is a painkiller narcotic that when used and sold illegally has been linked by officials to overdoses and deaths.

A negotiated sentence between prosecutors and Geiger’s lawyer for a guilty plea was for no prison time up to a maximum of five years in prison.

Geiger’s lawyer, Montrio Belton, asked Circuit Court Judge Dan Hall for probation, saying Geiger was not selling the drugs and had a minimal prior record. Geger also had been through rehab after years of fighting drug addiction that started with an injury while playing football at Northwestern High School, Belton said.

“He was facing exposure of up to 30 years in prison if convicted at trial, and I was able to negotiate with the prosecutor a sentence with a cap of five years,” Belton said after court.

Hogge asked for the maximum of five years. Hogge argued that illegal Fentanyl use and sales has been responsible for misery, overdoses and deaths in York County since the opioid epidemic took hold.

“A lethal dose of Fentanyl is about 2 milligrams, meaning Clayton Geiger had enough Fentanyl to kill about 6,185 people,” Hogge said in court. “Since 2017 when Fentanyl started to really hit the scene in York County, 60 people have died from Fentanyl overdoses, according to the coroner’s office.”

The judge asked Geiger if he would test clean for drugs, and Geiger said he would pass a drug test, both Belton and Hogge said.

South Carolina probation officials tested Geiger, who showed positive results for cocaine and marijuana, both Belton and Hogge said.

Hall then sentenced Geiger to the maximum of five years under the negotiated plea agreement, the lawyers said.

“No matter what his ultimate sentence may or may not have been, we all have a responsibility to be truthful to the court,” Belton said.

Geiger will serve part of the five-year sentence at the South Carolina Department of Corrections Addiction Treatment Unit, Belton said.

In a report on 2017 overdose deaths, the York County Coroner’s office called the local opioid crisis “frightening.”

“Our community is plagued by opioid addiction and people are dying,” York County Coroner Sabrina Gast wrote.

A York County woman was indicted in May after she was accused of delivering a fatal dose of Fentanyl in a man’s overdose death.

Overdose deaths have become so severe in the Carolinas that police in Wilmington, N.C., on Tuesday put out a warning to drug users about potentially stronger and more lethal drugs on the streets, according to the Myrtle Beach Sun News.

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