Oregon man going to prison for selling LSD that wound up in hands of 13-year-old boy who died

A Eugene man who sold liquid LSD that ended up in the hands of a 13-year-old boy who died after using the drug was sentenced Wednesday to three years in federal prison.

Kevin Michael Harris was 22 when he sold the LSD to a 17-year-old high school student on March 28, 2019, who in turn sold 22 LSD tabs for $95 to younger high school teenagers.

That same night, 13-year-old Nathan Quezada and three friends consumed three tabs of the LSD that was supplied by Harris and sold by the 17-year-old. Nathan began talking incoherently, vomiting and suffering seizures, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Sweet.

He was found dead in a fifth-wheel trailer parked in the driveway of a friend’s Springfield home the next morning, according to court testimony.

His friends had seen Nathan seizing on the floor of the trailer, left and went to a park, and when they returned an hour or so later, saw him foaming at the mouth. They left him alone in the trailer again, and never called for help, according to court records.

While the medical examiner couldn’t say the LSD caused the boy’s death, it was a contributing factor, Sweet said.

The young teen’s friends who were with him that night also used the LSD and were high, the prosecutor said.

“You have to say if they weren’t high, if they hadn’t consumed this, they would have acted differently” to get Nathan the help he needed by either calling 911 or finding an adult to help, Sweet said.

Death from LSD is extremely rare but selling large amounts of the drug to a minor carries a heightened risk, he said.

Harris sold $400 worth of LSD on multiple occasions to the 17-year-old customer, who had come to him to buy marijuana, Sweet said. Harris offered to sell cocaine, ecstasy or LSD and suggested the 17-year-old sell the drugs in school, Sweet said.

“The knowing sale to a minor is simply aggravating,” he said. “I know this is not fentanyl. I know it is not heroin. It is not methamphetamine. While LSD is not associated with overdoses, it is widely known with being associated with a ‘bad trip,’ misperceiving reality — so LSD certainly can be a harmful substance.”

Sweet read a letter written by the 13-year-old’s father, Benjamin Quezada of Springfield, who recalled his son’s infectious laugh, how he loved to play outside and “wore his heart on his sleeve.” He said his family “lost a beautiful soul.”

Sweet urged a sentence of five years and 10 months for Harris, while Assistant Federal Public Defender Kurt David Hermansen sought home confinement and community service for Harris.

Harris, now 25, told U.S. District Judge Michael J. McShane that he was sorry.

“My heart goes out to the family for their loss,” he said, through tears. “None of this was ever my intention. … I hope that someday I hope I can make amends. I’m not sure what that is, but I’m absolutely willing.”

Harris was a homeless teen who used every type of drug available before his arrest in reaction to the abuse he suffered as a child and a lack of steady parental support most of his life, Hermansen said.

While on release pending sentencing, Harris successfully completed inpatient treatment and has remained sober the past three years.

Harris’ arrest “scared him straight — right into the 12-step recovery community,” Hermansen said.

Harris, in response to questions from the judge, said he asked for help once he was in the Springfield jail and saw his face on TV and newspaper reports. He was released first to outpatient treatment, but didn’t last a week. He was then sent to inpatient drug treatment and succeeded with the guidance of a mentor and the recovery community, he said.

“People had my back who I could trust,” he said. He now wants to take classes to become a peer support specialist and is working for Central City Concern.

Benjamin Quezada, in his letter to the court, told the judge that Harris’ “sobriety will not bring my son back.”

McShane said it’s hard for him not to look at the case from his vantage point as a father of two boys.

While Harris has clearly worked to turn his life around, he knowingly sold LSD to a minor on numerous occasions and likely knew the drugs were going to end up among other kids, McShane said.

If Nathan Quezada and his friends hadn’t been using LSD, the friends could have had the presence of mind to help the 13-year-old and he wouldn’t have died, the judge said.

“It’s more often the decisions that are made while on drugs that puts a child at risk,” McShane said.

In his years on the bench, he said he’s seen children who have died from drinking and driving or going out in the cold without a coat while on drugs and dying from hypothermia. Young teenagers already are likely to make bad decisions and “when we add drugs to the mix, it increases the risk factor by 100,” he said.

McShane ordered a three-year prison term for Harris with three years of supervised release, saying he recognized Harris’ successful performance while on release and his lack of a prior criminal record but believed Harris needed to face accountability for the serious offense.

Harris must surrender to begin serving his sentence in about 90 days.

The 17-year-old who sold the LSD to Nathan’s friends, according to court papers, was prosecuted in state court and received six months of probation.

— Maxine Bernstein

Email mbernstein@oregonian.com; 503-221-8212

Follow on Twitter @maxoregonian

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