The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that James R. Bell, age 28, of Newark, New Jersey, was indicted on July 14, 2020, by a federal grand jury with drug distribution resulting in death.
According to United States Attorney David J. Freed, the Indictment alleges that Bell conspired with others to knowingly and intentionally distribute and possess with intent to distribute controlled substances, fentanyl and heroin, within the Middle District of Pennsylvania, resulting in the death of a person.
The charges stem from a joint investigation involving the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Scranton, the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office, and the Pennsylvania State Police. Assistant United States Attorney Michelle Olshefski is prosecuting the case.
This case was brought as part of a district wide initiative to combat the nationwide epidemic regarding the use and distribution of heroin and fentanyl. Led by the United States Attorney’s Office, the Heroin Initiative targets heroin traffickers operating in the Middle District of Pennsylvania and is part of a coordinated effort among federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who commit heroin related offenses.
This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program that has been historically successful in bringing together all levels of law enforcement to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. The Department of Justice reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of the Department’s renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local and tribal enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally-based strategies to reduce crime.
A sentence following a finding of guilt is imposed by the Judge after consideration of the applicable federal sentencing statutes and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. In this case, the maximum penalty under the federal statute for drug distribution resulting in death is life imprisonment.
Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the Judge is also required to consider and weigh a number of factors, including the nature and seriousness of the offense; the history and characteristics of the defendant; and the need to punish the defendant, protect the public and provide for the defendant’s educational, vocational and medical needs. For these reasons, the statutory maximum penalty for the offense is not an accurate indicator of the potential sentence for a specific defendant.