The son of a state legislator, who admitted to dealing the drugs that killed his friend in 2012, was sentenced Thursday to 16 years in prison during an emotional hearing in U.S. District Court.
Robin Gattis, the 20-year-old son of Wasilla Rep. Lynn Gattis, pleaded guilty in August to importing methylone from a Chinese supplier who called himself "Bruce Lee."
Commonly known as "Molly" or M1, the synthetic drug is similar to ecstasy and used at parties, concerts or clubs. Methylone has caused a number of deaths around the Lower 48, with victims often described as having seizures and abnormally high temperatures.
Court documents filed by prosecutors say Gattis had three kilograms of the methylone sent to him from China in powder form, packed it into pills and sold it in Alaska. Prosecutors said Gattis' friend, 20-year-old Matt Scott, hosted a three-day party at his Anchorage condo in April 2012 at which Gattis supplied the pills.
Scott died of a massive methylone overdose, according to sentencing documents.
Prosecutors say Gattis knew Scott was overdosing but did nothing to help him because he was already out on bail on state drug charges and on probation for assaulting his father. Gattis denied that charge during Thursday's hearing.
Scott's death became the first known fatality due to methylone use in Alaska. The federal charges against Gattis, filed in July 2012, appear to be the first in the United States involving a methylone death, Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Bradley said.
Chief U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline handed down the 16-year sentence, with five years of probation, after a three-hour hearing twice interrupted by technical glitches and delayed by bad weather.
Federal prosecutors had asked for a 20-year sentence and a $1 million fine for Gattis. Defense attorney Scott Dattan had asked for a 10-year sentence.
The only prosecution witness Thursday was 24-year-old Shane O'Hare, a real estate agent and co-defendant of Gattis in the methylone case. Prosecutors say O'Hare helped Gattis ship drugs to Wasilla from China before the party.
Five other co-conspirators with Gattis had previously pleaded guilty to federal drug charges stemming from a conspiracy to possess and distribute methylone. Two have been sentenced. Four, including O'Hare, are awaiting sentencing.
O'Hare received a telling Facebook message from Gattis the day after Scott died, Bradley said during the hearing.
"Yesterday was the longest, trippiest day of my life," Gattis wrote in the message, presented as evidence as a screen grab from Facebook. "I saw my bro's dead body and fled a crime scene before police arrived. But it's a day in the life of Robin Gattis."
A Washington state psychologist who evaluated Gattis in September was the only defense witness. David Michael Dixon said Gattis described himself as the son of an absentee father and an overbearing mother, who balked at rules and authority figures.
Dixon described Gattis as a "young, naive man" with the emotional development of a 14- or 15-year-old.
Scott's mother, Debbie Hurd, sat in the front row wearing earrings and a necklace made from her son's ashes. A framed photo of him sat in her lap.
Before making a statement, Hurd asked the judge to get Gattis to look her in the eye. He did.
A wooden box holding Scott's cremated remains sat on the courtroom rail in front of her.
"This is my son. My son was a beautiful child and this is him now. He's in a box," Hurd told Gattis, who started to cry but didn't look away. "We think of him and miss him all day, every day."
Her husband, Dan Scott, unleashed a bitter tirade.
"You are the most worthless human being. You do not even deserve to be called a human being," Scott said. "You knew Matt was dying. All you had to do was call 911 and leave. Granted, he may have died ... but at least he would have had a fighting chance."
Next, Gattis' family members provided statements.
As his father, 65-year-old FedEx pilot Richard Gattis, walked up, Hurd stood and moved the box with her son's ashes to the courtroom rail near him.
"This is my son!" she told Gattis, crying.
"I am truly sorry," he told her.
Richard Gattis struggled for words as he too fought for composure during his own statement.
"We agree that Robin has made a multitude of poor choices since he decided to leave our home at age 16," he said. "Robin was ill-prepared to deal with life on the street. He was immature. He was naive."
Gattis described the injury he suffered during his son's 2011 assault against him as "a scratch" and described him as a gentle person.
Rep. Gattis made a statement as well.
"I haven't lost a son. My son is sitting there," she told Scott's parents. "At the same time, we have a community that is broken. Debbie, you and I, we've lost so much."
Rep. Gattis also asked for help combating drug use in the community from the dozen young people assembled in the courtroom to support the Scott family.
Robin Gattis, his light brown hair in a crew cut and wearing black-rimmed glasses, expressed his remorse for Scott's death during a long, sometimes rambling address interrupted often by questions from Beistline.
"I'll never forget Matt Scott. But I just want to put this case behind me," he said. "I just really want to go home."
Gattis described himself as a kid who didn't fit in, who started drinking and smoking weed, and then turned to drug dealing to make money after leaving his parents' house and becoming "semi-homeless."
He said he dealt methylone to seem cool. The drug was "ridiculously cheap" and easy to get.
Gattis, under questioning from the judge, told Beistline he left Scott asleep on Sunday night, then found him dead the next day.
He said he "freaked out" and got a friend to find Scott and call authorities. "I didn't want to reflect poorly on me or my mother."
That contradicted texts O'Hare said he got from Gattis saying he thought Scott was dying from an overdose but he couldn't call 911.
Hurd said after the hearing that she doesn't accept any apology from Gattis.
"He was just begging for his life," she said of Gattis' comments during the hearing.
Hurd and Rep. Gattis met briefly in the hall after the hearing ended.
Lynn Gattis, talking with reporters, greeted Hurd as she walked out of the courtroom but the other woman rebuffed her and walked away.
"Truthfully, this is not the time to reach out to us -- not in front of the press," Hurd said.
Gattis later said she and her husband tried everything to help Robin -- counseling, home-schooling, restrictions -- but couldn't reach him. She said they didn't know the details of what happened to Scott, in the days following his death.
They drove Robin to the office of attorney Rex Butler five or six days after Scott's death, Rep. Gattis said.
Gattis will serve his time at the medium-security Federal Correctional Institution in Sheridan, Ore.