Darrell Fuller

Darrell Fuller was booked on second-degree murder in connection with the accidental overdose death of Colby Crawford. (OPSO)

The man accused of supplying the cocaine that led to the overdose death of a New Orleans jail inmate pleaded guilty to manslaughter on Friday under an agreement that will see him sentenced to five years in prison.

Darrell Fuller Jr., 32, entered the plea more than two years after Colby Crawford overdosed on his tier, highlighting the jail’s pervasive problem with illicit contraband.

Although he has agreed to a sentence with prosecutors, Fuller will not formally receive his prison term until a Thursday hearing before ad hoc Criminal District Court Judge Dennis Waldron.

The case against Fuller began on the night of Feb. 22, 2017, when the 23-year-old Crawford collapsed in his cell.

Sheriff's Office investigators said they later discovered that Crawford, who had mental health problems and a congenital heart condition, had been using cocaine throughout the day. The Sheriff's Office said video showed Fuller entering the cell and giving a plastic bag with powder inside to Crawford that morning.

After Crawford overdosed, another inmate, Bradley Bright, entered the cell and removed the remaining cocaine, according to the Sheriff's Office.

Fuller was charged with second-degree murder under a 1987 state law that says drug dealers can be charged with murder if their clients die from overdoses. The fact that the overdose happened inside a jail under the control of the Sheriff's Office added an unusual twist to the case, however.

Fuller's defense attorney, Mark Vicknair, confirmed the five-year sentence but declined to comment further.

With credit for time served, Fuller could spend about 38 months more behind bars in connection with Crawford’s death. He would have received life imprisonment if convicted of murder.

Bright still faces a charge of possession of contraband in a penal institution at a Nov. 11 trial, although the plea deal with Fuller could make it less likely that prosecutors will put that case before a jury. Bright spent more than two years in jail before Waldron slashed his bail from $500,000 to $5,000 last month, leading to his release.

Inmate advocates said after Crawford's death that the Sheriff's Office needed to explain how guards missed the rampant cocaine use going on inside the jail. His family also filed a lawsuit against Sheriff Marlin Gusman, deputies and the jail's health care provider.

A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit in February after a settlement was reached, court records show. The terms of the settlement were not immediately available on Friday.


Follow Matt Sledge on Twitter, @mgsledge.