SAN DIEGO – Christopher Glenn Emison of El Cajon was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Battaglia to 168 months in prison for distributing more than 40 grams of fentanyl – including the fentanyl that caused the death of 45-year old Derrick Hotchkiss.
On April 11, 2019, Hotchkiss, who played rugby for the San Diego Old Aztecs Rugby Football Club for many years and continued to attend matches, overdosed on fentanyl and died at his home in San Diego. Upon responding to the death scene, law enforcement officials recovered Hotchkiss’ cellular telephone and located a text message exchange between Emison and Hotchkiss indicating that the defendant sold fentanyl to Hotchkiss the night before his death.
In imposing sentence, Judge Battaglia said, “Dealing in drugs is dangerous. Dealing in fentanyl is deadly.” He also explained that, “For those that survive the victim, they have a whole lifetime to consider [what happened] and to grieve.”
“This case and the fact that deadly fentanyl continues to ravage our community, taking more than 300 lives this year alone in San Diego County, demonstrates the urgent need to hold these dealers of death accountable for their actions” said U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer. “Law enforcement must continue to devote resources to the opioid epidemic and stop those who profit from drug trafficking, while robbing sons and daughters of their parents, and parents of their children.”
“Selling drugs is not a victimless crime. Selling drugs is a root cause of crime, cartel violence, the destruction of families, and in this case, death,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge John W. Callery. “If you make the choice to sell drugs, DEA and our law enforcement partners will work tirelessly to bring you to justice.”
On the same day as Hotchkiss’ death, law enforcement executed a search warrant at Emison’s residence and seized 11.6 grams of fentanyl; 95.6 grams of heroin residue; a loaded Ruger .357 Magnum revolver on Emison’s bed; a .22 calibert semi-automatic rifle; over 1,000 rounds of various caliber ammunition; a “butane honey oil” (hash oil) extraction laboratory; a digital scale; a “pay and owe” notebook; and considerable evidence of Emison’s own drug usage. A search of Emison’s vehicle yielded additional ammunition and firearms.
After waiving his Miranda rights, while speaking with agents, Emison acknowledged his understanding of the dangers associated with the drug he was selling, as he told agents that fentanyl was “as dangerous as shit.” Emison also told law enforcement to handle the “China,” meaning the fentanyl, in his residence with care and claimed to have warned the victim about the drug’s strength, although the text messages he apparently sent to the victim with that warning after he sold the fentanyl did not generate a response and, thus, apparently came too late.
Hotchkiss’ mother, who addressed the court at sentencing, explained that her “life was shattered” when she was informed of her son’s death. In filed papers, she wrote: “I don’t know why these guys are selling [fentanyl], whether it’s money or they themselves are using, but if this is going to save another mother’s son then I’m glad they were arrested.” Hotchkiss’ spouse also told the court in filed papers that their young son “does not have a father” and he “will have no memories of [his father], just photographs and stories that I will share.”
The Old Aztecs Rugby Football Club also noted that, “we continue to grieve our beloved Deez…Saturdays won’t be the same; he was a large man with a heart to match.”
U.S. Attorney Brewer praised prosecutor Larry Casper as well as the agents from Narcotics Task Force Team 10 and the El Cajon Police Department. Team 10 is a multi-agency team housed by DEA that was created in July 2018 to address drug overdose deaths in San Diego.
Co-defendant Jeffrey Alden Blair pleaded guilty on February 26, 2020 and is scheduled to be sentenced on November 23, 2020.
DEFENDANTS Case Number 19cr3252-AJB
Christopher Glenn Emison Age: 33 El Cajon, California
Jeffrey Alden Blair Age: 34 San Diego, California
SUMMARY OF CHARGE
Distribution of Fentanyl – Title 21 U.S.C. Section 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(C)
Maximum Penalties – Mandatory minimum of five years, and maximum of 40 years in prison and $5 million fine