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Posted on Fri, Sep 7, 2012 : 2:51 p.m.

Ann Arbor man admits to giving former hockey coach heroin that caused fatal overdose

By Kyle Feldscher

Brendan Lathrop will serve between five and 10 years in prison after he admitted giving his friend Nicholas Belanger, a former high school hockey coach, the heroin that caused a fatal overdose.


Brendan Lathrop

Courtesy of the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office

Lathrop, 23, pleaded guilty to one count of delivery of a controlled substance causing death Friday afternoon in exchange for Washtenaw County prosecutors dropping a charge of delivery of a controlled substance more than 50 grams. As a part of a sentencing agreement, Lathrop will serve a maximum of 10 years and a minimum of five years in prison, Washtenaw County Assistant Prosecutor Blaine Longsworth said.

Washtenaw County Trial Court Judge Donald Shelton read Lathrop his rights and asked him if he was convinced the heroin he gave Belanger, who had been a coach at Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard High School, caused his death.

“I am, your honor,” he said.

It was the culmination of a case that began after Belanger’s Jan. 22 death. Belanger, 26, was found dead in his car outside Lathrop’s apartment in the 2000 block of Pauline Boulevard.

The courtroom was half-full with Belanger’s family and friends during the hearing Friday. Lathrop gave Belanger’s parents a long look as he entered the courtroom and again as he exited.

Belanger’s family and friends left the court without commenting on the case Friday.

Daniel Geherin, Lathrop’s attorney, said the plea deal was something he had been working on since the charges were filed in April.

Despite the appearance of preparing for trial, Geherin said negotiations with the prosecution grew more fruitful as the Sept. 17 trial date came closer. Geherin had convinced Shelton to order the release of Belanger’s medical records from Brighton Hospital, which Geherin had hoped would show past drug use that contributed to Belanger’s death.

Geherin said his client never forced Belanger to use the drugs he provided.

“Mr. Lathrop and Mr. Belanger were friends. Mr. Lathrop never forced anyone to use heroin,” he said, “and he’s devastated by the loss of his friend.”

The guilty plea to the charge of delivery of a controlled substance causing death is a rare one, Geherin said, but it gave him the ability to set an upper limit on how long Lathrop would be in prison. Had Lathrop pleaded guilty to the charge of delivery of a controlled substance more than 50 grams, he would have faced being in prison for up to 40 years.

Lathrop’s mother was in court Friday, and Geherin said she has been shaken by the sight of her son in Washtenaw County Jail attire throughout the process. She left the court in tears Friday.

“Reality sank in for both sides today,” he said. “She has to watch her son go to prison.”

Shelton will formally sentence Lathrop at 1:30 p.m. Oct. 2. He will be held in the Washtenaw County Jail without bond until that date. He’s been in the jail since a bond violation earlier this year.

Kyle Feldscher covers cops and courts for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.



Mon, Oct 8, 2012 : 3:57 a.m.

These comments are extremely upsetting and ill informed. The law in general is 100% necessary, and for what Brendan Lathrop did he should be kept away from the general populace. Regarding the delivery law, how should we then hold dealers accountable for dealing dangerous products indiscriminately? If some client would be better off dead to a dealer, he can simply sell the person some extra strong product. Since drugs are already illegal, the law can't set up a standard to keep users safe(r) from accidental overdose and contaminated product. We do have standard for alcohol, prescription medications, etc. This law also gives incentive for dealers to only sell to people that can use the drug at least responsibly enough to not die from it. None of you would be saddened by his punishment if you knew the extent of what he had done. There is a reason he took the plea bargain. Lathrop did not just distribute- he administered. Wouldn't a seasoned dealer and user know how much was too much, and very careful not to cross that line? Or did Nick's life mean so little to him that he just didn't care? Brendan Lathrop had to quickly distribute Naloxone (which is like an anti-venom, but for heroin) to a friend of his that had some of the same batch earlier that same day. Why did he use the same heroin batch that had just almost killed his friend? Why didn't he at least be careful about the dose? He could have at least dropped him off at the hospital. Drug users know there is a law protecting the people that drop off overdosees. If this had gone to court, you have heard numerous witnesses attest to the fact that Lathrop attended many different recovery groups over the last three years, not because he wanted to stop using, but to find new customers. People were trying to save themselves from addiction, but Brendan Lathrop didn't want to let them. He took advantage when they thought they were in a safe place, and he did all of this for money. I don't get how someone could do that.


Sun, Sep 9, 2012 : 3:36 a.m.

Until anyone has experienced first hand what herion does to a person over a very short period of time, there is no way you would understand why the dealer is held responsible and accountable for the death of a person he was supplying this nightmare of a drug to. I lost my youngest sibling to a heroin overdose. Before he made the dumb decision to experiment with this he was a very productive member of society. As his addiction progressed he progressed into a person I no longer knew. Everything of value that could be quickly sold slowly disappeared, he managed to rack up 3 different criminal cases for theft in less then a years time. I could no longer allow him to enter my home. I lost complete trust in him. He began lying and conning everyone around him, until his credibility was null. He was found dead, alone, in his apartment after he stopped answering phone calls for about 24 hours. After he passed away he was written off as another statistic by the Police. There were no laws in place in the state this happened in to hold the dealer accountable for his death. After painstakingly tracing his last steps backwards for a few months, it turns out the dealer had him and probably several other addicts down to a science. He knew about what time my sibling was going to be calling him for more before going into withdrawls. The dealer never missed a beat on this. It was what he was doing for a living. He didn't care that he left me, my mother, and 3 other siblings permanently scarred. The dealer disappeared into thin air when he received word of my sibling's death. I don't know how many other families were devistated by a death or were dealing with the misery an active addict is capable of bringing on to a family. It didn't take long to have him thrown in jail with the information I obtained and handing it over to the police. He is now sitting in jail for a very long time for peddling poison to the neighborhood. He was handed a maximum sentence because a death was involved.


Mon, Oct 8, 2012 : 4:06 a.m.

I am so sorry to hear about your sibling. I can't even imagine what you went through, seeing him destroy himself and not knowing what to do; and I'm sure the decision to no longer let him in your house must have been so hard. Letting him in would have been accepting him with his current addiction, and okaying it. I know that watching that happen needlessly and the loss of your brother are going to hurt forever, but you are a hero for finding out the truth, and making sure justice was served. Your didn't die in vain. Who knows how many lives that poison dealer could have ruined. Thank you, and again, I am so sorry for your loss.


Sun, Sep 9, 2012 : 3:35 p.m.

First off let me say I'm sorry for your loss. But no where in your comment do you place blame on your sibling for leaving your family permanently scarred by his usage/death. I can say with assurance that the dealer never gave your family a first thought, as it's not his responsibility to do so, it was your sibling's place to do that.

Basic Bob

Sat, Sep 8, 2012 : 6:47 p.m.

It's a dumb law he plead to. Also dumb that distribution is a 40-year sentence. Good luck when you get out, you will still be young, plenty of chances left to live right.

Liberty Soule

Sat, Sep 8, 2012 : 2:33 p.m.

I'm very disappointed in all of the people who have commented indicating the Mr. Lathrop shouldn't be held accountable for Mr. Belanger's death. You obviously don't have children or don't want to see the heroin problem in Washtenaw county cleaned up. I hope Mr. Lathrop serves the full ten years of his sentence and meets some really nice boyfriends in prison.


Sat, Sep 8, 2012 : 11:02 p.m.

You believe prison rape is a decent form of punishment for anybody? Im disappointed in that more than anything I have seen here.


Sat, Sep 8, 2012 : 5:59 p.m.

I have children and they know that they are responsible for their own actions. They also would not approve of ruining another life out of vengeance.


Sat, Sep 8, 2012 : 4:24 p.m.

If you think that heroin is a problem, then you're going to agree that prescription, opiate-based painkillers are the absolute scourge of society. You'd probably be surprised to learn that the CDC reports that more people die in the US from overdoses stemming from prescription painkillers than from deaths from heroin and crack cocaine combined. However, we aren't putting doctors in jail when housewives can't kick the habit, are we?


Sat, Sep 8, 2012 : 2:59 p.m.

He won't serve 10 years.


Sat, Sep 8, 2012 : 11:13 a.m.

Interesting. Yet a local attorney who supplied a lethal dose of drugs to a young woman several years ago got probation. A bit of class discrimination or protecting one's own (lawyer)?


Sat, Sep 8, 2012 : 4:31 a.m.

My heart goes out to both familes, I'ts been a long time since I have seen signs or t-shirts that say, SAY NO TO DRUGS? It is such a waste of life!


Sat, Sep 8, 2012 : 12:46 a.m.

There is no upside to this sad story. But it is especially tragic that after the US invasion of Afghanistan and that country's occupation by hundreds of thousands of American troops, Afghanistan now leads the world in heroin production. Why?

Basic Bob

Sat, Sep 8, 2012 : 1:59 p.m.

The explosion in the availability of Afghan heroin has had huge impacts on Iran, India, Pakistan, and China. Not so much here. In the US, 90% of our narcotic problem is due to synthetic opioids like Oxycontin. Only 10% is heroin, but it gets ratings. Doctors and pharmacists are the problem.


Sat, Sep 8, 2012 : 11:42 a.m.

The laws turn a blind eye to drug cartel importers as well. Our southern border is transparent.


Sat, Sep 8, 2012 : 3:03 a.m.

The US & Canada consume about 22 metric tons of heroin, 6% of the global market. Mexico & Latin American supplies most of the heroin in the United States. Afghanistan supplies mainly Europe, Central Asia and China.

Ron Granger

Fri, Sep 7, 2012 : 9:52 p.m.

Bartenders are held liable when they serve alcohol to patrons who die or kill someone. This is no different.


Sun, Sep 9, 2012 : 10:25 p.m.

Bartenders are held liable if their customer is obviously drunk and they continue to serve him, then he goes out a gets in a fatal car accident. This guy didn't use the heroin in his friends apartment, he used it in his car if I got it right. So it's more accurate to compare this with a liquor store selling a few bottles of whiskey to someone, then they drink it in their car while driving and getting into a fatal accident. The liquor store would not be held liable.


Sat, Sep 8, 2012 : noon

The bartenders would only be liable if they overserved the patron in those instances. Even though it was the people consuming the drug (in that instance alcohol) that would actually be responsible for their own "overdoses". Actually it appears that the reason he was charged under that statute was part of the plea bargain. The delivery charge would have involved more prison time.


Fri, Sep 7, 2012 : 11:53 p.m.

Agreed. Good point.


Fri, Sep 7, 2012 : 10:27 p.m.

No. No they are not.


Fri, Sep 7, 2012 : 9:38 p.m.

Just another way to waste a prison bed. When the story was first reported Belanger's family believed it was his first time using herion and blamed it all on Lathrop. It's a very rare occurrence the first time user is injecting. Belanger had a habit long before his death it's a risk addicts take. Sentence him to possession or distribution but he didn't cause the death that falls on Lathrop.


Sat, Sep 8, 2012 : 3:31 a.m.

Brandon, I dont care if someone wants to go score and inject arsenic. If there is a demand it will be sold legal or not. Its a losing battle and you cant build nor afford enough prisons for this kind of stuff. Prohibition was such a success after all.


Sat, Sep 8, 2012 : 2:46 a.m.

Actually if you read any of the articles on about this story, Mr. Belanger's medical records were brought into the case and he was, in fact, admitted to a rehab facility. All I was pointing out is that this was not the first time he used. It also was proven and stipulated by the defense that the defendant in this case was, in fact, his dealer over the course of time. The comment here was that it was his first time.


Sat, Sep 8, 2012 : 1:54 a.m.

So Brandon - You have seen Mr. Belanger's medical records? hmmmm very interesting and obviously you did not read the article. Geherin had hoped would show past drug use that contributed to Belanger's death. OBVIOUSLY - it did NOT show past drug use.


Fri, Sep 7, 2012 : 11:52 p.m.

Belanger's family was fooled like so many users. He was on heroin provided by the convicted for more than a year and you can site his medical records brought into evidence. The person convicted in this case was a drug dealer. Not selling joints. Heroin! I believe in the rule of law and innocent until proven guilty but we cannot go along with letting pushers get off with 6 months. You deal drugs, you should go to jail.


Fri, Sep 7, 2012 : 8:18 p.m.

I hate this law. It's just another way to put non violent drug offenders in prison. I am sorry for his family, but Nicholas Belanger made a choice to buy heroin on the street. It was not forced on him.

Ron Granger

Fri, Sep 7, 2012 : 9:50 p.m.

He didn't buy it on the street. He bought it in the dude's apartment. He died shooting up in his car. By the charges, the seller had over 50 grams. He was in this to make money.


Fri, Sep 7, 2012 : 8:58 p.m.

There still needs to be jail time for the pusher.


Fri, Sep 7, 2012 : 8:56 p.m.

I hate it, too. If the government really believed that drug addicts were unable to control their behavior, why is drug possession against the law? And if addicts *are* able to control their behavior and are therefore liable to suffer criminal penalties for use, doesn't it follow that the addicts themselves are responsible for overdose deaths?


Fri, Sep 7, 2012 : 8:13 p.m.

So from this article it indicates selling more than 50 grams is a greater offense than KILLING someone. Am I missing something? Sure the selling >50 grams has a potential to do greater harm, but the other charge actually did the harm - no potential harm.


Fri, Sep 7, 2012 : 7:52 p.m.

This law that convicted him should be on the ballott for repeal next go around. Our founding fathers gave us Liberty. From everything I have seen this one individual conciously choosing to injest or inject a substance on their own accord and volition. I do feel bad for the family and their loss. I've lost friends in similar siuations and it is tough to go through, but prosecuting someone in this instance based on the facts that have appeared so far just seems contrary to what this country was founded on. Maybe, we should start prosecuting all the farmers who sold their products at market that caused heart disease and subsequent myocardial infarctions that people have died from?


Sun, Sep 9, 2012 : 10:03 p.m.

He wasn't charged with murder, homicide or manslaughter, he was charged with selling an illegal substance which he was guilty of. But I do agree that if someone willfully uses heroin or any other drug, the consequences should rest fully on the person using it unless that person is a minor. Except perhaps in cases like with Michael Jackson where his doctor left him unattended while he had him on something that required constant supervision because that is negligence on the doctors part.


Sat, Sep 8, 2012 : 10:57 p.m.

Then fill us JS69. How did this man force the departed to use the drugs? Because thats the only reason he should be guilty of killing him.


Sat, Sep 8, 2012 : 2:07 a.m.

You would probably feel differently if you, in fact had been in court for the previous hearings. Unfortunately, what gets shared in the news is only 1/2 the facts or twisted facts or very one sided.


Fri, Sep 7, 2012 : 7:31 p.m.

All we can hope for it that he will get sober in prison and perhaps have half a chance of changing his life when he gets out. Reality is, prison will likely seal his fate and having a successful life may be over for him So sad for all. Addiction is a horrible disease. But it can be overcome. September is Recovery Month. Help someone who is struggling by helping them find services. They are free or very low cost and readily available.