Manslaughter charge against alleged drug dealer dropped

Aaron Bezahler, seated in court with supporters, awaits determination on whether a manslaughter charge would go forward. The DA's office dropped the charge ahead of arraignment. -Barry Stringfellow

The mother over an overdose victim is not giving up, despite a decision from Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe’s office not to seek a manslaughter charge against the man who allegedly sold her son the fentanyl that killed him.

“I’m really disappointed,” Brenda Williston-Floyd, the mother of Antone Silvia, told The Times Monday. Ms. Williston-Floyd has an attorney reviewing the court records to see if the criminal complaint can be re-filed.

Aaron Bezahler, the man accused of selling a lethal dose of fentanyl to Antone Silvia in April, was scheduled to be arraigned on manslaughter on Thursday, Dec. 14.

Instead, Edgartown District Court Judge James McGovern accepted the nolle prosequi — the legal document that drops the charge — filed that morning by Benjamin Vaneria, an assistant district attorney.

In the nolle prosequi, Mr. Vaneria stated, “The complaint is defective as a matter of law,” and cited Commonwealth v. Catalina as precedent. In that 1990 decision, the Supreme Judicial Court overturned an an involuntary manslaughter conviction in Essex County court against a drug dealer who likewise supplied heroin to a person who fatally overdosed.

In addition, Mr. Vaneria wrote, “even if the language of the complaint comported with the law, the evidence in this case would not permit the commonwealth to meet its burden of proof with respect to manslaughter.”

The criminal complaint was filed by Ms. Williston-Floyd. Barnstable District Court clerk magistrate Charles Ardito III reviewed the court records and found there was enough evidence to bring the charge.

Ms. Williston-Floyd told The Times she was told in a conference call with the district attorney’s office the day before Mr. Bezahler was to be arraigned that there was not enough evidence to proceed with a manslaughter charge.

Mr. Bezahler had also been scheduled for a trial on charges of possession of a Class A drug and conspiracy to violate the drug laws on Monday, Dec. 18. That case has been rescheduled for March 18.

In a letter to The Times last week, Ms. Williston-Floyd wrote that she pursued the manslaughter charge to bring justice for her son. He left behind a son, brothers, and an extended family, she wrote.

An attorney is looking at other ways to proceed, she told The Times Monday. “I’m just bummed that they waited until the last minute,” she said of the DA’s office.