Man Sentenced to 24 Years in Prison for Selling Drugs to Friend So She Could Kill Herself

A Columbia, South Carolina man was sentenced on Tuesday to spend more than two decades in prison for selling his friend prescription painkiller oxycodone that he knew she intended to use to commit suicide.

Anthony "A.J." Hunt, 24, was given a 24-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to the illegal distribution of oxycodone that resulted in death, BuzzFeed News reported.

In January 2016, Hunt, a former University of South Carolina (USC) student who had stayed in Columbia after dropping out and supported himself by peddling drugs, sold Rachel Bandman—a 19-year-old public relations student at USC—the painkillers and anxiety medication that she used to kill herself (Bandman's name was mentioned in previous media reports).

Bandman reportedly suffered from depression when she purchased the drugs from Hunt, according to the South Carolina newspaper The State.

In a court hearing, prosecutor U.S. Attorney Ben Garner read aloud text messages that Hunt and Bandman had exchanged before the latter's death, the State reported.

"It's frustrating how I can't die," she had written to Garner after her first attempt to commit suicide through an overdose failed. When Hunt replied that he was baffled that 20 pills did not have an effect, Bandman wrote back that she would "need more for it to happen."

After selling her the fatal drugs, Hunt texted Bandman to ask whether she had taken them yet, to which she said no. He asked why not, and she replied that she was waiting for her roommates to leave.

Bandman was found dead on January 28, 2016, and Hunt was later arrested in connection with the death. He told police that he had known Bandman's plan was to overdose purposefully when he sold her the drugs, according to BuzzFeed News.

"Hunt had an opportunity to help Ms. Bandman," Garner said, as reported by The State. "Not only did he not help her, but he provided instructions to commit suicide."

But Katherine Evatt, Hunt's public defender, told a different story, The State reported. In court, she read aloud other texts Hunt had sent to Bandman, which she used to argue that Hunt had initially tried to dissuade Bandman from suicide and was a constant confidant for her. This defense, she hoped, would culminate in Hunt receiving the minimum sentence.

"I don't want you to hurt yourself (and) I don't want you to hurt yourself because of me," Evatt read.

Evatt further read a portion of Bandman's suicide note, in which she referred to Hunt as "[her] angel" and the "only person who understood the pain [she] was going through."

Even so, the judge presiding over the case, Michelle Childs, ultimately agreed with the prosecutor's assessment that Hunt knew full well the part he would be guilty of playing in Bandman's death if she succeeded in overdosing.

"I understand you're young, but you're not 12," Childs told Hunt, according to The State. The newspaper also reported that Childs gave Hunt the "harshest sentence available," because she could have sentenced Hunt to only 20 years in prison.

Hunt was reportedly apologetic in the court room, and apologized to Bandman's family.

In a statement from the Justice Department released on Wednesday, U.S. Attorney Sherri A. Lydon provided rationale for Hunt's sentencing.

"AJ Hunt's distribution of oxycodone destroyed two young lives and shattered two families, and we will continue to bring justice to those, like Hunt, whose distribution of illegal drugs results in the death of another individual," Lydon said in the statement read. "It is my hope that this tragic case will also help us raise awareness among students, parents, and schools about the devastating effects the misuse and abuse of opioids can have on our college campuses."

For help, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Prescription painkiller Oxycodone Hydrochloride pills. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 40 percent of opioid deaths are from prescription pills. GEORGE FREY/REUTERS