PORTLAND, Maine — A South Berwick man who distributed drugs that caused a friend to overdose was sentenced to nearly six years in prison during an emotional hearing Wednesday at federal court in Portland.

Sean Verrill, 23, who pleaded guilty March 20 to distribution of buprenorphine resulting in death, was sentenced Wednesday to 71 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release. Buprenorphine is an addictive painkiller found in the prescription drug Suboxone.

“Mr. Verrill, you’ve been sentenced for a crime that resulted in the death of another person. That’s an expensive lesson to learn,” U.S. District Court Justice D. Brock Hornby told Verrill in announcing the sentence Wednesday afternoon. “Don’t throw it away. Make something out of your life.”

The charges stemmed from an Oct. 12, 2010, incident in which police found Miles Malone, 20, dead in Verrill’s South Berwick apartment. Medical examiners later determined the cause of death to be an overdose of buprenorphine, a drug Verrill ultimately admitted to having supplied.

Hornby’s sentence was the maximum allowed under a plea agreement reached between federal prosecutors and Verrill’s defense attorney, J. Hilary Billings. Billings in court Wednesday argued for the minimum sentence in the range agreed upon in the deal — 57 months in prison.

Billings said the tragedy resulted from Verrill’s immaturity, and said Verrill was involved with drugs in part because his parents divorced when he was 3 and without contact with his father, he lacked a “a strong figure of guidance” in his formative years.

“It this case there was no malicious intent, no harmful intent,” the defense attorney said. “They were friends. There was no animosity. [Verrill] was devastated.”

Verrill told the court he thinks about Malone’s death “every day.”

“It drives me crazy,” he said. “I apologize to the Malone family and wish I could take it back. … I was just young, hanging out with my friends. I didn’t think anything could go wrong.”

Robin Malone, Miles’ mother, told the court she hoped her son’s death haunts Verrill like it does Malone’s family.

“I hope the same scene plays over and over in his mind as a constant reminder,” she said through tears. “We received our life sentence. We have to live the rest of our lives without Miles.”

Karen Mahoney, Miles Malone’s aunt, told the court Verrill was “Miles’ last hope” to cut him off from drugs on the night of his death, and instead “put him on the fast track to the finish line by giving him more drugs.”

Hornby said he leaned toward a more severe sentence in part because, since Malone died, Verrill has been convicted of four more crimes and is facing two more felony charges, including charges related to a series of motor vehicle burglaries in the spring of 2012 in York.

Verrill also had a lengthy criminal record prior to the October 2010 incident, including a 2009 arrest on theft charges in South Berwick when he was out on bail from a previous criminal charge.

“Mr. Verrill had many prior run-ins with the law, but they didn’t seem to get his attention,” Hornby said during the Wednesday hearing. “Unlike [Malone], you will have another chance. Don’t throw it away.”

Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.