Plea expected from teen in heroin-overdose case

September 17, 1998|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

A Westminster teen-ager accused of selling a fatal dose of heroin to a schoolmate in January is expected to offer a plea, rather than proceed with a weeklong trial scheduled to begin Monday in Carroll Circuit Court.

Kristopher Olenginski, 16, plans to plead not guilty but accept the prosecutor's statement of the facts presented to Elsbeth L. Bothe, former Baltimore circuit judge, said Anton J. S. Keating, Olenginski's Baltimore attorney.

Bothe was assigned the case in the absence of Judge Luke K. Burns Jr., who is on medical leave.

Co-prosecutors David P. Daggett and Brian L. DeLeonardo will allege that Olenginski, who was waived to adult court despite his age, went to Baltimore on Jan. 8 to buy four $15 bags of heroin and returned to sell one bag for $30 to Liam O'Hara, 15, a Westminster High School sophomore who was found dead in bed by his father the next morning.

Two co-defendants were tried as juveniles in the case.

Olenginski is charged with distribution of heroin, conspiring with the two juveniles to sell heroin, reckless endangerment and related charges.

Keating said Bothe would likely find his client guilty and impose sentence. He said he will ask the judge to defer imposing the sentence until his client's juvenile status is reviewed by the Court of Special Appeals.

"We believe the waiver [from juvenile to adult court] is defective," said Keating, citing a 30-page brief that he is prepared to argue on appeal.

If Olenginski pleads not guilty to the statement of facts, Daggett said he would not oppose a request to defer imposing the sentence until the appeal is decided.

"It would be unfair to have anyone serve eight or nine months of a sentence and then learn it was overturned by the Court of Special Appeals," Daggett said.

Carroll Circuit Judge Francis M. Arnold waived Olenginski to adult court in May, despite recommendations by caseworkers who said the teen-ager had no record, was a good student and should be tried as a juvenile.

Daggett argued at the time that Olenginski's drive to Baltimore to purchase drugs showed he was "no rookie."

O'Hara's death and the prompt return of two of three defendants to Westminster High School touched off a furor among some parents and students and has led to town meetings, anti-drug seminars and a crackdown by state and local police to stem the spread of heroin in the county.

The 17-year-old girl who was convicted in May for her role in the case was ordered by Peter M. Tabatsko, the juvenile master for Carroll County, to await sentencing for about 30 days. She was confined at the Waxter Children's Center in Laurel and missed graduating with her Westminster High class in June.

Tabatsko, saying he noticed a profound change in the girl, sentenced her to a suspended term at an unspecified juvenile detention center and placed her on probation, ordering indefinite home monitoring and 350 hours of community service.

She had agreed to testify against Olenginski, who has remained in the custody of his parents, who live in the 1100 block of Lucabaugh Mill Road.

The other co-defendant, a 15-year-old boy, was charged and tried as a juvenile. Juvenile records are sealed, so the disposition of his case is unknown.

Pub Date: 9/17/98

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