A Westlake Village, Calif. drug dealer, who admitted selling hallucinogenic mushrooms to a teen who was killed when she wandered naked onto a freeway, was sentenced today to 15 years in federal prison.
U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson also ordered Steven Thomas Roman, 31, to serve six years under supervision upon his release.
Roman pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in April to felony sales of illegal drugs to a minor, felony sales of illegal drugs that resulted in a death and felony distribution of Ecstasy and psilocybin mushrooms.
“It must be driven home that there are consequences to the choices and actions we make,” Anderson said before handing down the sentence. “This is one of those many cases we see where we realize that someone we know has had their lives touched by drugs.”
Roman was arrested in January by federal agents while housed in a Ventura County jail cell, where he had been held since his arrest last September on suspicion of sales of the drug Ecstasy.
The case dates back to August 2004, when a group of young people gathered in a condominium complex in Thousand Oaks, Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward Alon said.
At some point, one teen contacted a man -- later identified as Roman -- and ordered a quarter-pound of unusually potent psilocybin “magic mushrooms,” Alon said.
After Roman delivered the drugs, the group ate the mushrooms and 17-year-old Victoria “Tia” Nugent began having a "bizarre" reaction, according to court documents.
Friends attempted to lock her in a room, but she escaped and was walking naked on the Ventura (101) Freeway in Newbury Park after dark when she was struck by a car, Alon said.
Investigators determined the driver was not to blame for the girl's death and that she had drugs in her system, including the active ingredient in hallucinogenic mushrooms, he said.
Last fall, four years after Nugent's death, Roman was arrested by Ventura County sheriff's investigators after twice selling Ecstasy pills to an undercover informant.
During a post-arrest interview, Roman admitted that four years earlier, he had sold psilocybin mushrooms to the group that included the girl who died on the freeway, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. He has been held in custody since his 2008 arrest.
“People say drugs are a victimless crime,” Alon said in court today. “Well, there's a victim here.”
In an emotional statement, the girl's mother described the morning when law enforcement officers and a chaplain showed up on her doorstep to tell her that her daughter had been killed.
“I screamed and cried and didn't want to listen to anything they had to say,” Mary Nugent said. “But when I heard she died after every bone in her body had been crushed by the impact -- that's why she looked so skinny in the casket.”
Roman, too, spoke to the judge.
“I am sorry for her death,” he said. “I didn't mean for this to happen. I hope to make an impact later in life when I am released to help kids stay off drugs. I'm just so sorry.”
Noting that Roman's drug sales continued years after the teenager's death, Anderson sentenced him to 180 months in federal prison, citing a “need to protect the public and the community.”
Roman, the judge said, is “hopelessly addicted to drugs,” and although he had no prior criminal record and faced other personal challenges, “none of that justifies what happened in this case.”
Anderson said a restitution finding in the case would be delayed until October.
Alon declined to comment when asked why Roman was charged in federal rather than state court, but some observers today indicated that the reason had to do with the statute of limitations in the case.