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Park City teen denies drug distribution charge connected to friends' overdose deaths

FILE - Summit County Justice Center and Juvenile Court in Park City Utah on Friday, July 14, 2017.
FILE - Summit County Justice Center and Juvenile Court in Park City Utah on Friday, July 14, 2017.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

PARK CITY — A Park City teen accused of continuing to have packages of synthetic drugs delivered to her home years after one shipment led to the overdose deaths of her two friends has denied allegations of drug distribution.

The 17-year-old girl sat quietly before a juvenile court judge in Park City on Friday, her eyes wide during the brief hearing. Her attorney, Mary Corporon, indicated she believes that not all of the facts in the case have been made public.

“I believe there is some substantial discovery we’ve not received,” Corporon said, without elaborating.

The girl is charged with four counts of drug distribution, a second-degree felony. She effectively pleaded not guilty Friday to three of the counts related to the 2018 allegations, as well as the fourth charge stemming from 2016.

In June and July, U.S. Customs officers and the Postal Service intercepted three shipments of ecstasy and another synthetic drug that were on their way to her, investigators wrote in search warrant affidavits.

“Given that the juvenile is continuing to order controlled substances to be delivered into the community, she presents an unreasonable risk to public safety," prosecutors wrote in charging documents.

Two years ago, they allege, a pair of Summit County boys asked the girl if they could have synthetic drugs shipped to her house so their parents wouldn't find them, charges state. The boys, Grant Seaver and Ryan Ainsworth, both 13, later died from the white-powder synthetic opioid, "pink," or U-44770. The girl had received that shipment of the drug, prosecutors argue in the court documents.

On Friday, 3rd District Juvenile Judge Elizabeth Knight thanked her for complying with her in-home detention in recent weeks and approved the teen’s transfer to a residential supervision program on Saturday.

The judge barred the girl from going online or using social media, allowing her to access the internet only for coursework while in the program.

Wearing a blouse and blue toenail polish, the teen spoke only once, replying “yes,” when the judge asked if she was planning to start the residential program. The Deseret News has chosen not to name the teen at this time.

In their investigation this summer, police went to the house where the package was addressed and talked to a man who lived there, who said he agreed to allow the girl to have e-cigarette refills sent to his address, charges state.

She was arrested at the time the two arranged to meet to deliver the packages, telling investigators that friends asked to order the items on the darknet, and that she used Bitcoin to buy them, charges say. She said she learned how to buy the drugs from friends who had bought U-44770 and had it delivered to her house in 2016, charging documents state.

The hearing Friday comes after the girl earlier this year delivered a TEDx speech in Park City, recounting her own struggles with addiction and saying, “most days I do want to quit, I do want to stop. But then there are other days I’ll end up finding myself in a binge again,” she said.

She may not be alone in facing criminal charges. In July, a community alert to Park City parents told them charges were being recommended against several teens in connection with receiving drug shipments and arranging them through the darknet, a largely hidden computer network.

The new court case follows a separate, wrongful death lawsuit filed in March by the parents of Grant Seaver against the parents of four of their son's friends allegedly involved in his death, including the 17-year-old girl and Ryan Ainsworth’s parents. The Seavers allege their son's death was caused by negligent supervision and "abnormally dangerous activity" on the part of the other parents. The suit contends that in the weeks before Grant's death, the teen girl's parents found a box of Chinese drugs purchased by the three other teens that were shipped to the girl.

The teen is due back in court Oct 12.