In a dramatic hearing that underscored the scourge of the state’s opioid epidemic, former professional hockey player Kevin Stevens, who was raised in Massachusetts and twice won the Stanley Cup, was sentenced to probation for conspiring to sell oxycodone.
Prosecutors had asked that Stevens, 52, of Weymouth, serve a year in prison, less than what he faced under sentencing guidelines.
But US District Judge George A. O’Toole Jr. said he was caught between a need to punish Stevens and a desire to support the rehabilitation of a man whose addiction began after one of the National Hockey League’s worst on-ice injuries.
“The risk of interrupting the progress that has been made is perhaps an unwise risk to take,”O’Toole told a courtroom crowded with Stevens’ supporters.
O’Toole said that Stevens, like most drug dealers who appear before him in court, “would be doing something else if they weren’t feeding their addiction.”
The judge also fined Stevens $10,000. And, because of his background, the judge ordered Stevens to give motivational speeches to raise awareness about addiction and the dangers of prescription drugs, a probation condition that O’Toole will personally oversee.
Stevens — who is 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighed 230 pounds in his prime playing days — stood to tell the judge he was apologetic, and embarrassed.
“I wish it never happened,” he told the judge. “It’s something that hurts me. I hurt my family, my kids, I hurt my parents. I hurt everybody.”
Stevens himself had suggested to O’Toole that he could give motivational speeches as part of his probation, saying, “I want to help people.”
Born in Brockton, Stevens attended Boston College on a full scholarship and had a lengthy pro career as a star winger and forward, playing for the Boston Bruins, the Los Angeles Kings, the New York Rangers, and Philadelphia Flyers. He won two Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He also represented the United States on the 1988 Olympic hockey team in Calgary.
Last year, Stevens was charged in a conspiracy to sell oxycodone to and through another man, Christopher Alonardo. During the investigation in November 2015, Stevens was stopped by law enforcement officials and found to be in possession of 175 oxycodone pills that he planned to sell to Alonardo.
Assistant US Attorney Timothy Moran said Thursday that authorities would not allege that Stevens was a large-scale dealer who moved large shipments of illegal drugs, but argued that he dealt drugs steadily, saying Stevens once commented to Alonardo, “you’ve got to make money, there’s nothing wrong with that.”
“Mr. Stevens was dealing drugs, just like any other drug dealer who walks into this court,” Moran said, as he detailed the impact of the state’s opioid epidemic. He discussed the growing number of babies born addicted to drugs and cited the skyrocketing number of deaths caused by opioids.
In 2015, the state reported 1,379 deaths caused by opioids compared with 363 in 2000, Moran asserted in a court filing.
“That’s the fact that is going on in this Commonwealth, that’s the affect of this drug, and I can’t minimize it,” Moran said, arguing that Stevens had more opportunities than others, and had no need to resort to drug dealing.
“We don’t sentence people in federal court for being addicted to drugs, but he crossed the line to become a drug dealer.”
Paul V. Kelly, an attorney for Stevens, argued that Stevens was not the cause of the epidemic, and if anything, is a victim. He said Stevens was prescribed oxycodone after an on-ice injury in 1993 — considered one of the worst in the history of the NHL — and he has not recovered from brain trauma and other injuries. His addiction ended his marriage, his career as a scout with the Penguins, and damaged his relationship with his children.
“It destroyed his career, and destroyed his life in many respects,” Kelly said.