By Nate Raymond
NEW YORK (Reuters) – A former minor league hockey player avoided prison on Thursday for supplying painkillers to late New York Rangers’ enforcer Derek Boogaard, who died from an overdose of alcohol and oxycodone in 2011.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan sought up to six months in prison for Jordan Hart, a former player for the Utah Grizzlies whom they said supplied painkillers to Boogaard before his death while obtaining pills to feed his own addiction.
But U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald said that contrary to how the case was portrayed when it was announced in 2014, no evidence existed that Hart actually supplied the pill that led to Boogaard’s death.
She called Hart and Boogaard “victims of organized sports, which did not consider the consequences of supplying large quantities of addictive pain medications to their players.”
While Buchwald said Hart “crossed over the line of victimhood” by selling Boogaard drugs, she noted his efforts to overcome his own addiction in sentencing him to one year of probation and 100 hours of community service.
“His life is now on track, and this court sees no reason to derail it,” she said.
Hart pleaded guilty in June to a misdemeanor charge of possessing a controlled substance. He told Buchwald that he was “a changed man and a better man.”
Nicknamed “The Boogeyman,” Boogaard spent five seasons with the Minnesota Wild starting in 2005 before signing a four-year deal with the Rangers in July 2010. During his final game he suffered a shoulder injury and a concussion during a fight.
Boogaard was found dead of an alcohol and oxycodone overdose on May 13, 2011, after spending the night drinking with friends in downtown Minneapolis.
Prosecutors contended Boogaard’s addiction was fueled partly by drugs from Hart, a resident of Huntington, on New York’s Long Island, who had been supplying painkillers to the Rangers player, including $4,000 worth two weeks before his death.
Prosecutors said Hart, also an addict who left the Grizzlies in 2009 following injuries, had been obtaining prescriptions for Percocet, a painkiller that contains oxycodone, from Oscar Johnson, a physician’s assistant in Utah who provided services to the team.
While prosecutors linked their case to Boogaard’s death, they now acknowledge the pill that Boogaard took the day he died was Oxycontin, which also contains oxycodone and which they had no evidence of Hart ever obtaining.
Johnson has agreed to plead guilty and is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 10, according to court papers.
(Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler)