Waukesha man convicted of providing drugs in overdose deaths

April 4, 2013

Rarely is the court’s compassion and its sense of justice in such synchronicity as it was Thursday evening in room C219 of the Waukesha County Courthouse.

Shortly after the completion of the Drug Treatment Court, presided over by Judge William Domina every Thursday, Waukesha resident Kevin Cobus was found guilty by a jury of his peers on two counts of first-degree reckless homicide by delivery of drugs.

The Drug Court and the Len Bias Law under which Cobus was prosecuted are the carrot and stick used by the criminal justice system to curb the malignant growth of narcotic drug abuse in Waukesha County.

The 1989 law, which allows the state to prosecute dealers who provide drugs to individuals who die of an overdose, was named after college basketball phenom Len Bias, who died of a cocaine overdose shortly after being picked up by the Boston Celtics in the 1986 draft.

The Drug Court allows high-risk criminal offenders the opportunity to enter a rigorous drug treatment program, which requires constant monitoring and regular court appearances to track progress. If participants, primarily heroin addicts, complete the program, they have the opportunity to have their charges reduced or even dropped.

According to court records, seven people were charged under the Len Bias law in 2012 and four people were charged in 2011.

Assistant District Attorney Susan Opper, who represented the state in the Cobus trial, said there will “absolutely” be more prosecutions under the Lens Bias Law.

“I’ve got four more of them sitting on my desk right now,” she said.

Opper said she could not speak for the District Attorney’s Office, but she was happy with the jury’s decision.

“Heroin is an ongoing problem for the community and hopefully any small decision we make will go a long way,” she said.

Last week, Ryan H. Tentoni was charged under the law for allegedly providing the powerful opiate medication that killed Kettle Moraine High School graduate Wayne G. Wilson, dead at 24.

Using phone records and witness statements provided by friends and family, police were able to tie the overdose deaths of Muskego resident Jamie L. Hansen in July 2011 and Delafield resident Cody C. Riggs in January 2012 to Cobus.

Cobus, 28, said in a statement to police that he drove the two addicts to his dealer in Milwaukee so that they could obtain heroin. In exchange, he received a portion of the heroin purchased for his own use.

Opper said in her closing statement on Thursday she believed that was Cobus’ motive for indirectly causing the deaths of Hansen, 24, and Riggs, 26.

“He did it to obtain heroin for himself,” she argued. “This is your job when you are an addict. You can’t find a job or hold down a job. That is your job. You wake up every morning looking for money to buy drugs.”

Defense Attorney Gary R. Schmaus argued that Cobus was not alone in causing the deaths of Hansen and Riggs, that there were several people who helped them into their grave, including Cobus’ dealer “Tommy” or “Tay.”

“A conspiracy means there are others involved,” Schmaus said, referring to the fact that Cobus was charged as being party to the crime. “Yet the only one sitting at the defense table standing accused in the death of Jamie and Cody is Kevin. Where are these co-conspirators?”

Furthermore, Schmaus argued, some responsibility lies with Hansen and Riggs themselves, who called up Cobus and asked him to drive them to Milwaukee.

“If you called up an alcoholic and said, ‘I’ll take you to the bar for drinks and I’m buying,’ who is going to say no?”

Opper called that argument “ridiculous” in her rebuttal.

“The fact of the matter is he is responsible for those two deaths. If he did not make that call that day, they wouldn’t have died.”

It only took the jury two and a half hours to make their decision.

Cobus is expected to be sentenced on May 29 and could face up to 80 years in prison, $200,000 in fines, or both.

Schmaus said he did not yet know whether Cobus would appeal the decision.


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