Twin Cities man sentenced to life in prison for string of fentanyl deaths

A person poses for a portrait
John Beddow holds photos of his son Jason at the federal courthouse in St. Paul on Monday.
Matt Sepic | MPR News

A federal judge sentenced a Twin Cities man Monday to life in prison for sending lethal doses of fentanyl through the mail. In 2016, eleven people in ten states died of overdoses after buying drugs from Aaron R. Broussard’s website.

A jury in March convicted Broussard of all 17 counts in the government’s indictment, including importation of fentanyl resulting in death.

At trial, prosecutors laid out in detail how Broussard, 31, bought drugs in bulk from “sketchy labs in China” and mailed them to customers across the United States.

In early 2016, more than a dozen people ordered what they thought was the drug 4-FA, a stimulant. Though Broussard’s supplier had warned of a mixup, Broussard paid no heed, and sent out two-gram packets of the powerful painkiller, prosecutors said.

Among the recipients was Timothy Robertson of Paint Lick, Ky. After ingesting what he believed to be a knockoff of Adderall, the 32-year-old spent five days in a Lexington hospital before doctors removed his breathing tube.

Robertson left behind a wife and their three daughters; the youngest, Emily, was 14 months old when she lost her father. Now she’s 7 and knows him only through photos and stories from others.

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“My daddy was the best daddy in the world, and I wish he could see us grow up,” she said outside the federal courthouse in St. Paul after Emily, her sisters and mother each stood at a lectern and took turns explaining to Judge Susan Richard Nelson how Robertson’s death devastated their family.

“He was an amazing father, an amazing person, and he loved these girls more than life itself,” said Amy Robertson, Timothy Robertson’s widow.

Robertson said she’s happy that Nelson gave Broussard the longest possible sentence.

“He’s completely selfish, self-centered, cares of no one but himself. And it’s just disgusting,” she said.

Family members pose for a portrait
Amy Robertson, center, stands with her daughters (from left) Leigha, Emily and Natalie outside the federal courthouse in St. Paul on Monday.
Matt Sepic | MPR News

In court Monday, prosecutors said Broussard has never expressed remorse for his crimes or empathy for the victims. After his trial, he fired his court-appointed attorney and filed a flurry of motions on his own seeking to vacate the conviction.

Judge Nelson largely rejected them, but Broussard’s jailhouse legal maneuvering forced a six-week delay in his sentencing hearing and caused travel headaches for the victims’ families.

On the day that Amy Robertson lost her husband, Lucy Angelis was already grieving for hers, Jason Beddow, who died the day before.

Beddow, 41, an agricultural economist at the University of Minnesota, had sought a drug to help him focus and study when he clicked on Broussard’s website. Beddow suffered a fatal overdose in his office.

Angelis said the last six years have been difficult.

“I feel relieved that we can put this chapter behind us,” she said. “I know there’s going to be some appeals, it looks like, based off of the defendant’s behavior. Hopefully the courts will continue to uphold all of those rulings.”

John Beddow said his son focused his life’s work on helping people, including developing of food sources that don’t require large amounts of water.

“He was a very kind individual,” Beddow said. “He always thought of others. Everything he did, including his professional career, was about making life better for others.”

Beddow said he’s hopeful that the life sentence that Judge Nelson gave Broussard will send a message that dealing drugs is not a victimless crime.

But even after the judge imposed it, Broussard remained defiant and continued to challenge the evidence that prosecutors presented at trial.