MERCER – Before Brandon O’Brien Bowers was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison on Wednesday, Mercer County’s Common Pleas President Robert G. Yeatts gave him a stern look.
O’Brien was convicted on November 17 of several crimes related to the accidental fentanyl overdose of his friend, 33-year-old Michael Robert Herndon of Grove City.
“It seems to me that you lack value for human life,” Yeatts told Bowers.
It was one of many emotional moments in Bower’s verdict hearing.
A jury found Bowers guilty of the manufacture, supply and possession of a controlled substance with intent to manufacture or supply; reckless endangerment of another person; Possession of a controlled substance and criminal use of a communication facility.
But after five hours of deliberation, the jury acquitted Bower’s third degree murder and drug delivery, which led to Herndon’s death.
During the hearing on Wednesday. Yeatts said the law does not allow convictions for the two most serious crimes that Bowers was acquitted.
“The jury has spoken,” he said.
Herndon was pronounced dead of a drug overdose on July 13, 2019. Prosecutors alleged that Bowers was the last person to see Herndon alive on July 12 and that he sold him the drugs.
In a taped interview with Grove City Police Department that was presented in court, Bowers, 34, formerly of Plain Grove Ward, repeatedly denied giving Herndon the drugs.
More than a dozen family members and friends of Herndon and Bowers sat in the stands in the courtroom when the verdict was announced. Five Mercer County Sheriff’s deputies were in the courtroom, and at the start of the hearing, Yeatts warned he would not tolerate outbursts.
When she testified during the hearing, Herndon’s mother, Julie, tearfully recounted the devastating effects his death had on the family. A couple of times she held up photos of her son.
“He was my everything,” she said.
She said she discovered her son’s limp, unresponsive body at home. and while admitting that her son had a drug problem, he was on the path to rehabilitation and a better life.
She then caught Bowers and said he had committed “an evil deed” and “premeditated murder.” In addition, Bowers never tried to contact her family.
“What he delivered intentionally killed my son,” she said. “He knows 100 percent of what he’s done.”
She asked Yeatts for the steepest possible sentence for Bowers.
Both of Bowers’s parents testified and asked for indulgence.
“He’s not who he is portrayed as,” said his mother, Tracey Bowers.
When she finished her testimony, she looked at her son and said, “I love you no matter what.”
Abby Martin, Bowers’ friend, testified on his behalf that he had become a father-like figure to their young children.
In Bowers’ brief statement, he apologized to Herndon’s family. But he didn’t say exactly what for.
“I am deeply sorry,” said Bowers as he sat at the defendant’s table. “I know his whole family. He was my best friend. ”
But added that he was not responsible for Herndon’s death. and the reason he went to court was to clear his name.
“I’m not a killer,” said Bowers.
His lawyer Melanie Womer also asked for indulgence. But Assistant District Attorney Shane Crevar called for a harsh sentence.
“He continues to deny responsibility,” Crevar said of Bowers.
Before Yeatts pronounced the verdict, Yeatts warned both families: “Neither side will get what they want.”
He then gave a detailed account of his investigation into Bowers’ previous repeat offender problems and recent acts.
In jail, Yeatts said, Bowers was involved in a riot, saying, “I already have a murder charge. I’m ready for the next one. ”And at one point Bowers said he wanted a witness to be murdered in the case.
He noted that before the hearing, Bowers said he was taking these measures to protect himself in the harsh prison system. Also, in a letter to the court regarding his conviction, Bowers said he had taken remorse and responsibility for his actions, Yeatts said.
In a trembling voice, the judge remembered having close relatives who died when he was young.
He quickly regained his composure. Then he looked at the members of the Herndon family and said, “I have a lot of empathy.”
The total imprisonment for the consecutive charges was a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of 20 years.
He credits Bowers 533 days already served in prison.
After the hearing, representatives from each family declined to speak.
“We’re delighted with the verdict,” said Mercer County District Attorney Peter C. Acker, who did not attend the hearing. He found that Bowers had a long criminal history.
“This isn’t his first rodeo,” he said, noting that Bower’s record dates back to 2006.
Acker said it is difficult to keep track of drug cases that have resulted in a death.
“But we’re looking at every single case,” he said.