The morning a distraught Christopher Fox called for paramedics to revive his roommate from cardiac arrest, it already was too late.
He shook him, screamed at him and even forced his breath into his lungs. But a night of heroin, cocaine and marijuana abuse had left the roommate lifeless by daybreak in their Kenwood area apartment.
Police were sympathetic to the grieving Fox but still charged him with six drug possession and paraphernalia charges. It was the second set of such charges for Fox, who was on probation and taking drug classes stemming from earlier charges.
A guilty verdict on the most serious drug charges could have meant prison time. But a Baltimore County District Court judge yesterday allowed Fox to go relatively unpunished if he promised that he would never use drugs again.
"I could send you to drug classes until I am blue in the face," Judge Barbara Jung told him in Essex District Court.
"If you're dumb enough to continue using . . . ," she said, her voice trailing off before she continued. "You've already learned the hardest way to learn this lesson."
Judge Jung found Fox guilty only of one of the lesser charges, use of marijuana, because he testified that he used it. She sentenced him to probation and ordered him to pay a $150 fine. He had denied the other charges, saying his roommate and companion, who was not identified in court, owned the other drugs and paraphernalia.
Police said a three-inch straw with cocaine residue, a vial that had heroin inside and an incense tray with burnt marijuana leaves were found on a night stand on the same side of the bed where Fox had slept.
Fox also said he did not even know that the drugs, other than the marijuana, were in the apartment, a point prosecutor Marsha Stephens challenged.
"I don't know how you live with someone for three years and not know what is going on," Ms. Stephens said.
If the judge had found Fox guilty of all the charges, he could have faced up to nine years in prison and $52,500 in fines.
Fox, a hotel desk clerk, cried on the stand when recounting how his roommate died June 2.
"I just got back from my 3 to 11 shift and he was groggy because of some sleeping pills he took," Fox said. "Then he said that he also took heroin. We argued because I didn't like for him to use it."
Fox said his companion was upset because he soon would have to testify as the victim in a molestation case dating back to his childhood.
The two then smoked some marijuana and went to bed, he said.
Fox said he woke about 5 a.m. because of his roommate's snoring and went to another room. When he returned about 11 a.m., the roommate was dead.
"I tried to get him to stop using drugs," he said, sobbing.
"It's not your fault that he continued to use drugs," Judge Jung replied. "Mr. Fox, are you going to use drugs any more?"
"No," he said.
Judge Jung then handed down her sentence with one last parting remark: "Don't use drugs. You should be the commercial not to."