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A dealer is sentenced to 17.5 years for his role in Mac Miller's fatal overdose

Mac Miller performs an NPR Tiny Desk Concert on Aug. 1, 2018.
Eslah Attar
Mac Miller performs an NPR Tiny Desk Concert on Aug. 1, 2018.

A Los Angeles man will serve nearly two decades in prison for his role in supplying the fentanyl-laced pills that contributed to rapper Mac Miller's accidental drug overdose in 2018.

A federal judge sentenced Stephen Walter to 210 months — or 17.5 years — in prison on Monday, according to documents from the U.S. District Court in the Central District of California.

Walter, 49, had pleaded guilty last October to a federal criminal charge of distribution of fentanyl, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in federal prison. At the time, he had reached a deal with federal prosecutors to serve exactly 17 years.

But Judge Otis D. Wright II rejected that sentence on Monday, as Rolling Stone reports, because it was below federal guidelines and prosecutors have argued that Walter continued to sell counterfeit pills up until his 2019 arrest.

"I may as well lay it out, OK," Wright reportedly said in the courtroom. "When you continue to engage in this activity even after your activities killed someone, I'm having a tough time not staying within the guidelines."

Rolling Stone reports that Walter agreed to the higher sentence after conferring with his lawyer for a few minutes. While addressing the court at one point, Walter apologized to Miller's family but said it was only after his arrest that he learned the rapper had died from something he had supplied.

"My actions caused a lot of pain, and for that I'm truly remorseful," Walter said, according to the magazine. "I'm not that type of person who wants to hurt anybody. That's not me. But on the paperwork where it says that I continued to conduct in that kind of behavior after I knew that there was death, that's not the truth, your honor."

Walter is one of three people charged in connection with Miller's death, along with Ryan Michael Reavis and Cameron James Pettit.

Here's how the drugs got to Miller, according to prosecutors

Federal prosecutors have accusedWalter of supplying the counterfeit oxycodone pills to Reavis, who allegedly gave them to Pettit. Walter said in court that he had directed Reavis to deliver the pills to Pettit, because he believed Pettit wanted them for himself and was unaware he had plans to sell them to someone else.

While Miller negotiated to buy oxycodone from Pettit, prosecutors say he instead sold the artist the fake, fentanyl-laced pills.

Two days later, on Sept. 7, 2018, Miller was found unresponsiveat his Los Angeles home.

The chart-topping rapper and producer, who was born Malcolm James McCormick, had died at age 26 from what the Los Angeles County coroner said was an accidental overdose of fentanyl, cocaine and alcohol.

Reavis was sentenced last month to more than 10 years in prison. The case against Pettit — who has pleaded not guilty in Los Angeles federal court — was still pending as of April.

Miller's mother and the judge decry the dangers of fentanyl

Miller had spoken publicly about his struggles with substance abuse throughout his career, which he also documented in his music. In his song "Small Worlds," which he performed publicly at an NPR Tiny Desk concert taped just weeks before his death, he rapped, "I may trip, but I never fall. God knows, I came close — don't try this at home."

In a victim impact statement read by prosecutors at the sentencing, Miller's mother, Karen Meyers, said he would have never knowingly taken a pill with fentanyl, adding that "he wanted to live and was excited about the future."

"My life went dark the moment [Miller] left his world," she wrote. " [He] was my person, more than a son. We had a bond and kinship that was deep and special and irreplaceable. We spoke nearly every day about everything — his life, plans, music, dreams."

Wright, the judge, said on Monday that his decision had nothing to do with Miller's celebrity status, Rolling Stone reports.

"This was a human being who unwittingly took something that will flat-out kill you, and I have no idea why we have people out here dealing in this stuff, peddling this stuff," Wright said. "This is what upsets me. Everybody now knows this stuff will kill you. I need to be quiet because I'm talking myself into something stratospheric."

The court is also recommending that Walter complete a 500-hour residential drug abuse program and participate in outpatient treatment upon his release from custody.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.