Federal prosecutors work to charge drug dealers with ‘client’ deaths

(Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Federal prosecutors in Nashville are increasing efforts to prosecute drug dealers across Middle Tennessee, especially if a dealer’s “client” overdoses or dies.

Jack Smith, the U.S. Attorney for Middle Tennessee, is helping prosecute three people in the death of 23-year-old Katie Stone from Gallatin.

“We want to make sure the people who did this can’t do it again and we also want to send the message that if you deal drugs there’s a tremendous penalty to pay,” Smith told News 2.

Katie Stone (Courtesy: The Stone family)

According to federal documents, 23-year-old Katie Stone bought heroin laced with fentanyl on March 22 from 19-year-old Tatiana Johnson, 23-year-old Damion Anderson and his cousin, 34-year-old Leon Anderson.

MORE: 3 charged in heroin, fentanyl overdose death in Gallatin

She and her boyfriend used the drug at her Gallatin home. The documents say her boyfriend went to work his overnight shift. When he returned home, Stone was dead.

“The last thing I said to Katie was ‘I love you’,” her mom Barbara Stone told News 2. “Katie was caring, loving, she was funny.”

Katie was also a mom to a 3-year-old daughter. A GoFundMe account was set up to help the little girl with college and expenses.

“How are we supposed to explain this to a three-year-old that her mama’s not ever going to come back?” Stone asked through tears. “It’s been the worst nightmare we’ve ever had to live. I don’t ever want to go through this again and nobody else needs to try to go through it either.”

Federal documents show that Tatiana Johnson’s Gallatin apartment was searched and DEA agents found nearly 20 grams of heroin inside.

Johnson and the Anderson cousins have been charged in connection with her death, and if convicted, each would spend at least 20 years in prison.

Tatiana Johnson, Damion Andesron, Leon Anderson (Courtesy: Sumner County Sheriff’s Office)

“If you are selling drugs in the Middle District of Tennessee you are taking a chance on spending 20 years in prison,” Smith told News 2.

He has a narcotics unit with five federal prosecutors and one supervisor who are solely prosecuting drug dealers, from street-level dealers to Mexican cartel members to doctors who overprescribe.

Smith says prosecuting drug dealers is just one tool in the state’s arsenal in the war against Tennessee’s opioid epidemic.

“This is a major focus for our office,” he said. “It doesn’t matter the size or amount of drugs. If you’ve caused harm in the community and people are dying or overdosing as a result of your conduct, we will be there for you.”

Smith says treatment and education are the other tools.

The defendants in Stone’s case go on trial next month.