Alleged drug dealers Christopher Benvenuto, Jessie Kurzweil charged in overdose death of Doreen Leach

New initiative will hold dealers responsible for users' deaths (4/16/14)

BERGEN COUNTY - The Bergen County Prosecutor's Office has charged two alleged drug dealers in the fatal overdose of a North Jersey woman.

Christopher Benvenuto and Jessie Kurzweil were indicted Tuesday on charges stemming from the death of Doreen Leach, who died of a heroin overdose in Emerson last June.

The suspects face several charges, including manslaughter. This is part of a strategy by Bergen County prosecutors to treat drug suppliers as killers if a death can be traced to the drugs they sell.

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"It's called strict liability,” says Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli. “We don't have to prove that you gave a quantity that killed the person.  We don't have to prove that you knew the person had taken other drugs throughout the day and was therefore more susceptible to the overdose."

New Jersey's strict liability law has been in effect for about 10 years. However, prosecutors are using it more now as heroin deaths reach all-time highs.

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