Texas Man Sentenced in North Dakota Drug Deaths Appeals

A Texas man accused of selling synthetic drugs to customers in every state and distributing the chemicals that resulted in the overdose deaths of two teens in North Dakota is appealing his sentence.

Charles Carlton, of Katy, Texas, was sentenced a year ago to 20 years in prison for selling the drugs authorities linked to the June 2012 deaths of 18-year-old Christian Bjerk, of Grand Forks, and 17-year-old Elijah Stai, of Park Rapids, Minnesota. Carlton was one of 15 people convicted in the case.

Carlton said in his appeal filed in federal court Friday that his lawyer did a poor job of representing him and lists seven reasons why the sentence should be thrown out or reduced. He says the fatal doses of the substances were prepared by others after someone stole the drugs from one of Carlton's customers.

"There is a mutual understanding that serious crimes were committed and severe punishment is warranted," Carlton wrote. But he wrote that it was in the interests of justice for him to be represented by a lawyer seeking the best possible outcome for Carlton.

Authorities say Carlton sold the chemicals to Andrew Spofford, a self-proclaimed "hobby chemist," who then cooked up the drugs. Carlton argues that the person most responsible for the overdoses is Adam Budge because Budge stole the substances from Spofford and then misidentified them as mushroom powder.

Carlson said the liability for the overdoses "shouldn't arbitrarily shift from person to person as a thief decides which little baggie he is to steal."

Spofford was sentenced to more than 17 years and Budge to more than 11 years in prison.

Court documents do not list an attorney for Carlton. Federal prosecutors declined to comment.

Carlton, who is serving his time at a federal prison in Texas, said in his memorandum that his appeal may not be "skillfully drawn" because it was not prepared by a lawyer.

"This brief should be read generously and at a standard less stringent than if it was prepared by trained legal counsel," he said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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