'No winners today, only sadness,' judge says in sentencing drug dealer for overdose death

Jordan Yarmey, 28, was sentenced Wednesday to four years in prison for trafficking fentanyl and criminal negligence causing death. The judge called it a sad day for two families.

Jordan Yarmey sentenced for trafficking and criminal negligence causing death

Jordan Yarmey in a Facebook photo posted in July 2016. (Facebook/Jordan Yarmey )

After the judge left the courtroom, Jordan Yarmey stood in the prisoner's box, removed his belt and tie and handed them to his mother, along with his wallet.

The two were allowed to hug, while she whispered in his ear.

Then Yarmey, 28, walked off to begin a four-year sentence for selling fentanyl to a man who died from an overdose. 

Edmonton Court of Queen's Bench Justice Beverly Browne called Wednesday's sentencing hearing a sad day for everyone involved.

The parents of overdose victim Szymon Kalich, who died in January 2016, were too upset to speak to reporters after the hearing. The Crown read their victim impact statements in court. 

"I miss Szymon dearly, think of him daily, and as a mother continue to second guess myself, wondering what I could have done to prevent this tragedy," Danuta Kalich wrote. "Now I feel only sadness and anger that he has been taken from me."

Szymon Kalich died of a fentanyl overdose on Jan. 27, 2016. (Kalich Family)

 Earlier this week, Yarmey pleaded guilty to trafficking and criminal negligence causing death.  

He admitted he gave three fentanyl pills to Kalich, 33, and let him crash on the living room couch in his south-Edmonton apartment. When Yarmey emerged from his bedroom two days later, he found Kalich dead and dragged his body into the hallway outside his apartment. 

The image, those facts, continue to haunt Kalich's father. 

"I feel anger," Jan Kalich wrote in his victim impact statement. "Anger at Szymon's loss and how he was treated with such disrespect when he died. Dragging him into the hallway like so much garbage. This is what makes me angry."

The way Yarmey treated Kalich also appeared to trouble the judge. 

"We know Mr. Yarmey did that," Browne said. "But he says to us he's not the same person today as he was when he was acting under the influence of fentanyl.

"That addiction is wicked and terrible and allows people who may be good people to do terrible things to others."

'I am deeply sorry'

During the hearing, Browne spoke about the pain felt by both families. 

"The Kalich family has lost their son," she said. "The Yarmey family will be separated from their son for some time as he takes responsibility for his role in Szymon's death. There are no winners today. Only sadness." 

Helen Yarmey echoed that sentiment following the hearing.

George and Helen Yarmey speak to reporters after their son's sentencing hearing. (Emilio Avalos/CBC )

"There's not a day my son didn't think about that death," she said. "There's not a day that we don't wonder how much pain that family's going through."

In a prepared statement, Jordan Yarmey told the court the arrest helped change his life. 

"I am deeply sorry for the passing of Szymon Kalich and the role I played in it," he said. "It's a horrible tragedy that I wish could have been avoided." 

While he spoke, Danuta Kalich looked away and shook her head.

The judge appeared to find the apology somewhat lacking. 

"I hope, Mr. Yarmey, that you might someday consider talking to the Kalich family," Browne said. "I think you've got some words you need to say to them. More than you've said in court."

'It's a miracle he survived' 

Defence lawyer Timothy Dunlap said when his client was arrested he "was in the throes of one of the most severe addictions I think the court may have heard about." 

Dunlap detailed Yarmey's daily drug and alcohol intake. 

"He was using up to a quarter ounce of cocaine, 40 or 60 mg. of GHB, about 10 fentanyl pills and 26 ounces of alcohol on a daily basis," Dunlap said. "It's a miracle he survived that period of his life at all."

Defence lawyer Timothy Dunlap outside court of Wednesday. (Emilio Avalos/CBC )

Helen Yarmey said her son is not the same man today. 

"I don't even recognize that person that he was three and a half years ago," she said. "Even the way he was with us, we wondered what happened to our son. His addiction just took over his whole life."

Yarmey was charged with manslaughter 10 months after Kalich died. It was the first time Edmonton police had laid that charge in connection with a fentanyl overdose.

Two other men were also charged in 2016 with manslaughter for allegedly providing fentanyl to overdose victims. One of those cases is scheduled to proceed to trial this November. A stay was entered in the third case in December 2017. 

Given the tidal wave of fentanyl deaths over the last several years, Helen Yarmey said he thinks her son has been unfairly singled out. 

Yarmey's lawyer agreed.

"I don't think Jordan Yarmey should have been the one that the charges were laid against," Dunlap said. "By the time they laid these charges, he was well on his way to his rehabilitation."

Browne urged Yarmey to show gratitude to his parents.

"There are few who can afford the treatment that you received, and that's because of your parents," the judge said. "Without them, I don't think we'd be here today. You're a very, very fortunate young man. I'm not sure you realize that yet." 

Outside court, after the hearing wrapped up, Helen Yarmey revealed what she had said earlier to her son. 

"I just told him that I loved him and we'll be here for him, and to stay strong," she said. "And that no one can take away all the progress he's made in the last three and a half years."

About the Author

Janice Johnston is an award-winning journalist in Edmonton who has covered the courts and crime for more than two decades. You can reach her at janice.johnston@cbc.ca or on Twitter at @cbcjanjohnston