JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – An Orange Park man convicted of selling the drugs that led to an 18-year-old woman’s fatal opioid overdose was sentenced Monday to the maximum sentence of life in federal prison.
Trumaine "Lucky" Muller's head dropped as U.S. District Judge Marcia Morales Howard announced the sentence.
Earlier this year, a federal jury found Muller guilty of selling heroin and fentanyl, among other charges. Federal investigators said Ariel Brundige's boyfriend and another man went to Muller's apartment and bought what they thought was heroin in November 2016, but that heroin turned out to be fentanyl.
According to court documents, Brundige's boyfriend, Tyler Hamilton, and the other man, Christopher Williams, provided a portion of the substance to Brundige (pictured), who died of an overdose the next morning. Prosecutors said toxicology results showed Brundige had well over the lethal amount of fentanyl in her system.
Hamilton and Williams were charged with manslaughter in the case and pleaded guilty last year.
Muller was originally charged with first-degree murder in Clay County but that charge was dropped when Muller was indicted on federal charges. Muller had been held in Nassau County while awaiting sentencing.
Since Muller's arrest, the Florida Legislature has changed the law to allow prosecutors to charge drug dealers with murder if fentanyl led to a death. The mandatory life sentence stems from a congressional law that was passed.
Prior to his federal sentencing, Muller, 34, told the judge that he was sorry, he didn't kill Brundige and he wanted mercy.
"I'm innocent. I had a rough life. I don't deserve a life sentence," Muller pleaded with the judge. "I ask for mercy."
The families of both Brundige and Muller were in court for the hearing.
Josie Brundige, Brundige's mother, said it is painful to think about the things her daughter will never experience and the woman she will never become.
"It felt like a piece of me died with her," she said. "(She was) such a beautiful baby from the first moment."
Muller's family left federal court frustrated with the mandatory life sentence because the family said Muller did not directly give the drugs to Brundige.
Muller's lawyer said he expected to file an appeal right away.
"We will take up the issue of the sufficiency of evidence, some pretrial rulings on suppression, as well as the unreasonableness of a mandatory life sentence," attorney Charlie Truncale said.
During the investigation into Brundige's death, the Clay County Sheriff’s Office made a controlled purchase of heroin and fentanyl from Muller in January. During the execution of a search warrant of the Clay County apartment where Muller was living, officers seized fentanyl and a loaded revolver.
State officials are pleased that Muller got the maximum federal sentence.
“Families and communities have been ravaged by the opioid epidemic,” State Attorney Melissa Nelson said. "I commend law enforcement and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for their skillful investigation and prosecution of Trumaine Muller for the overdose death."
“We appreciate the hard work of everyone involved in this," Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels said. "This is truly teamwork at its finest."