Kaifeng Wu

Last week, New Haven resident and community activist Quentin Staggers pleaded guilty in federal court to possessing with intent to distribute synthetic cannabinoids known as “K2,” the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut announced on Oct. 24.

“This matter stems from a joint investigation by multiple law enforcement agencies into the distribution of K2 on the New Haven Green in July 2018,” the press release noted.

New Haven Police Department spokesman David Hartman said that this investigation is part of a larger investigation into the Aug. 15 mass K2 overdose incident on the New Haven Green — which included about 100 overdoses on the corner of Yale’s campus. Hartman noted that the investigation has not been concluded.

When Staggers was arrested for drug charges on Aug. 16, two men had already been arrested in connection to the K2 overdoses.

In November 2017, Staggers, who was experiencing homelessness at the time, helped organize a “Housing, Not Jails” community march against the city’s inaction on homelessness.

But on Oct. 24 Staggers pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Janet C. Hall in New Haven. Hall has scheduled Staggers’ sentencing for Jan. 16, 2019.

Staggers has currently been released on a $100,000 bond pending sentence, according to the press release. At his sentencing, Staggers faces a 20-year maximum term of imprisonment.

On Aug. 30, a federal grand jury in Harford returned a three-count indictment charging Staggers with distributing synthetic cannabinoids, announced an Aug. 30 press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut. The indictment alleged that Staggers possessed with intent to distribute while actually distributing synthetic cannabinoids on July 20, Aug. 15 and Aug. 16.

Hartman told the News that the New Haven Police Department could not comment on the term of imprisonment as sentencing has to do with the judiciary and prosecution, not the law enforcement agencies.

The Oct. 24 press release said that on July 20, investigators conducted a “trash pull” at Staggers’ Farren Avenue residence and discovered suspected K2 packaging, according to court documents and statements made in court.

Not commenting on the specific case, Hartman clarified that a trash pull, in general, means that “when a suspect is developed, [investigators] will literally go through trash at a residence or a business, to see if there is anything that will corroborate the case.”

The packaging and residue found during the July 20 trash pull were then submitted to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s forensic laboratory for testing. The tests confirmed the presence of AMB-FUBINACA, a synthetic cannabinoid, which is a Schedule I, federally controlled substance, announced the Oct. 24 press release.

The matter continues to be investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration’s New Haven Task Force as well as the New Haven and Branford Police Departments.

The New Haven office of the Drug Enforcement Administration told the News that they could not take media requests, directing the News to their headquarters in Washington, D.C. The headquarters told the News to speak with their New England division, which did not respond to a request for comment.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Patrick Caruso and William J. Nardini, as well as Assistant State’s Attorney Karen Roberg.

The Drug Enforcement Administration was founded in 1973.

Sammy Westfall | sammy.westfall@yale.edu