A 72-year-old man, linked to a crew of drug dealers blamed in the fentanyl-laced heroin death of The Wire star Michael K Williams, was sentenced this week to more than two years in prison.
On Tuesday (25 July), Carlos Macci was sentenced to two and a half years in prison by US District Judge Ronnie Abrams, who told Macci that selling heroin and fentanyl “not only cost Mr Williams his life, but it’s costing your freedom”, in part because he did not stop selling drugs after Williams died.
Macci had pleaded guilty to conspiring to possess and distribute narcotics.
The judge noted that more than 3,000 fatal overdoses occurred in New York City last year, killing many who never understood the threat they faced from lethal doses of drugs whose components were unclear.
Williams, who played charismatic robber Omar in The Wire and also starred in films and other TV series including Boardwalk Empire, overdosed in his Brooklyn penthouse apartment in September 2021. He was 54.
At the sentencing, Williams’s nephew asked the judge for compassion, and several weeks ago David Simon, a co-creator of The Wire, urged leniency in a letter, saying Williams himself “would fight for Mr Macci”.
Macci was not charged directly in the actor’s death, although others in the case have been. Still, he could have faced nearly 20 years in prison if the judge had not agreed to depart downward from federal sentencing guidelines that called for double-digit years in prison.
Assistant US Attorney Micah F Fergenson had urged a sentence of at least four years, saying Macci had more than 20 previous convictions and had not spent much time behind bars despite four drug-related convictions since 2016.
Defence attorney Benjamin Zeman said he was a “huge fan” of The Wire and considered Williams “a tragic victim in this case”. But he said his client was a victim, too, of the drug crisis, causing him to do things to sustain his own drug habit.
Dominic Dupont, Williams’s nephew, told the judge that he believed Macci can turn his life around.
“It weighs heavy on me to see someone be in a situation he’s in,” Dupont said. “I understand what it is to be system-impacted.”
Simon met Williams in 2002 when he cast him on The Wire as Omar Little, a gay, shotgun-slinging Baltimore man known for robbing street-level drug dealers. His character became synonymous with his facial scar –which Williams sustained in a bar fight on his 25th birthday, when he was slashed with a razor blade – and for his tendency to whistle the tune of “The Farmer in the Dell” when stalking targets.
In his letter, Simon noted the actor’s opposition to mass incarceration and the drug war and the fact that Williams had engaged with ex-felons and restorative justice groups.
Simon also described how Williams, during the show’s third season, quietly acknowledged to a line producer about his own struggles with addiction and allowed a crew member to provide constant companionship to help him resist the temptation to do drugs.
“We watched, relieved and delighted, as Michael Williams restored himself,” Simon wrote.
But Simon, who covered the drug war as a police reporter at The Baltimore Sun from 1983 to 1995, said Williams confided that an impulse toward addiction would be a constant in his life.
“I miss my friend,” he wrote. “But I know that Michael would look upon the undone and desolate life of Mr Macci and know two things with certainty: First, that it was Michael who bears the fuller responsibility for what happened. And second, no possible good can come from incarcerating a 72-year-old soul, largely illiterate, who has himself struggled with a lifetime of addiction.”
The Independent has contacted Simon for comment.
Additional reporting by Associated Press