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Still proclaiming innocence, man gets life for fatal fentanyl overdose

Even before he stood before the judge Tuesday, Dontrell Wise knew he was going to prison for the rest of his life.

A mandatory life term was the minimum sentence facing the 32-year-old drug dealer convicted of selling fentanyl that killed a Cheektowaga woman.

The judge, in giving Wise the life sentence, pointed to the victim, 28-year-old Amanda Jarczyk, and the overdose crisis that continues to claim the lives of addicts.

"You don't seem to really care," Chief U.S. District Judge Frank P. Geraci Jr. told Wise at one point. "Was it worth it?"

When Wise again proclaimed his innocence, as he has from the start of his case, Geraci asked him if he was serious. And when Wise said he was, the judge pointed to the evidence against him.

"I don't believe you," Geraci said, "and the jury didn't believe you either."

Over the course of Wise's trial, prosecutors Michael J. Adler and Brendan T. Cullinane painted a profile of a man with "unexplained wealth" and played the jury a rap video showing Wise with large wads of cash.

The government's case also included the testimony of police officers who stopped Wise's car and found thousands of dollars in his pocket.

[Related: Drug dealer faces life sentence in fentanyl overdose death of Cheektowaga woman]

Wise, his voice choking with emotion, said the guilty verdict against him hinged on another drug dealer who testified against him in return for leniency on her sentence.

"I'm innocent," he told Geraci. "Anything I've done I've owned up to."

Wise is the latest in a string of drug dealers to face federal charges linking them to an overdose death.

So far, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Buffalo has linked nearly a dozen defendants with 19 overdose deaths over the past five years.

Robert Ross Fogg, Wise's defense lawyer, said his client maintains his innocence, even now, months after his trial conviction guaranteed him a life sentence.

"Nothing we say here today will change that," Fogg said of the mandatory life term.

Investigated by the FBI, agents said Wise was a member of the Black Soprano Family, a Buffalo street gang.

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