Charges dismissed in connection with Lawrence fentanyl death and other overdoses; state plans to refile

photo by: Chris Conde/Journal-World

Benjamin L. Mims is pictured at a Douglas County District Court hearing on Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2022.

After a judge denied the prosecution’s request for a continuance, charges were dismissed Tuesday in Douglas County District Court against a man in connection with the fentanyl overdose death of a Lawrence teenager.

The defendant, Benjamin L. Mims, 35, of Lawrence, was charged with one felony count of distribution of a controlled substance causing death, three felony counts of distribution of a controlled substance causing great bodily harm and one felony count of possession of more than 100 doses of Oxycodone but less than 1000 doses, according to charging documents.

The distribution causing death charge relates to an incident on Aug. 28, 2021, in the 3300 block of Westridge Court, where Lawrence teen Mohamadi “MJ” Tompson Issa Jr., 18, died of an apparent fentanyl overdose, according to the Douglas County coroner.

Issa was on the varsity football team for Lawrence High School his freshman and sophomore years and on the Free State High School varsity team his junior and senior years, according to his obituary.

The distribution causing great harm charges relate to incidents on May 31, 2021, and July 23, 2021. The charging documents were not clear as to who the alleged victims were in those instances. The possession of Oxycodone charge is listed as occurring between May 31, 2021, and Aug. 28, 2021.

Mims’ third bodily harm charge is in connection with the overdose on Sept. 5, 2021, of his co-defendant, Logan Hastie Morgan, 22, of Lawrence.

Morgan is charged with one felony count of distribution of a controlled substance causing death, two felony counts of distribution of a controlled substance causing great bodily harm and one felony count of possession of more than 10 doses of Oxycodone, as reported by the Journal-World. The death and bodily harm charges relate to the same three incidents as with Mims. Morgan was released on a $100,000 own-recognizance bond and is next scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 18, 2023, for a status update.

Mims appeared in court on Tuesday for a preliminary hearing but when the hearing began, Senior Assistant District Attorney David Greenwald asked for a continuance. He said that the state has had trouble scheduling a key witness to testify and that it needed more time.

Mims’ defense attorney, Dakota Loomis, objected to the continuance and said that Mims has been in custody for more than three months and that it wasn’t Mims’ fault that the state couldn’t produce its witness. Mims has been in custody since his arrest on Sept. 21 on a $300,000 bond.

Judge Amy Hanley declined to grant the continuance and said that three months was more than enough time for the prosecution to prepare its case. She then asked Greenwald if he wanted to continue with the preliminary Tuesday, to which Greenwald said “no” before moving to dismiss the charges without prejudice, which means the case can be refiled.

Greenwald said the state planned to refile the charges at a later date. Mims was visibly relieved when the charges were dismissed.

Mims is currently on federal parole. He was convicted in 2019 in federal court of felony possession with the intent to distribute heroin. His conviction was part of a Department of Justice “heroin trafficking case” in which Mims and five co-defendants were convicted of dealing heroin out of a house in Kansas City, Kansas.

Mims was sentenced in May of 2019 to 24 months in a federal prison and three years of post-release supervision, according to federal court records.

Mims remains in custody at the Douglas County Jail and is being held without bond on a U.S. Marshal hold.

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