NEW YORK - A 71-year-old man linked to a crew of drug dealers blamed in the fentanyl-laced heroin death of "The Wire" actor Michael K. Williams was sentenced Tuesday to more than two years in prison at a proceeding in which the actor’s nephew recommended compassion for the defendant.
Carlos Macci was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison by U.S. District Judge Ronnie Abrams, who told Macci that selling heroin and fentanyl "not only cost Mr. Williams his life, but it's costing your freedom," in part because he did not stop selling drugs after Williams died.
Macci had pleaded guilty to conspiring to possess and distribute narcotics.
The judge noted that more than 3,000 fatal overdoses occurred in New York City last year, killing many who never understood the threat they faced from lethal doses of drugs whose components were unclear.
Williams, who also starred in films and other TV series including "Boardwalk Empire," overdosed in his Brooklyn penthouse apartment in September 2021. He was 54.
Macci benefited from words spoken on his behalf by Williams' nephew and a sentencing letter submitted weeks ago in which David Simon, a co-creator of HBO’s "The Wire," urged leniency, saying Williams himself "would fight for Mr. Macci."
Macci was not charged directly in the actor's death, although others in the case have been. Still, he could have faced nearly 20 years in prison if the judge had not agreed to depart downward from federal sentencing guidelines that called for double-digit years in prison.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Micah F. Fergenson had urged a sentence of at least four years, saying Macci had more than 20 previous convictions and had not spent much time behind bars despite four drug-related convictions since 2016.
Defense attorney Benjamin Zeman said he was a "huge fan" of "The Wire" and considered Williams "a tragic victim in this case." But he said his client was a victim, too, of the drug crisis, causing him to do things to sustain his own drug habit.
Dominic Dupont, Williams's nephew, told the judge that he believed Macci can turn his life around.
"It weighs heavy on me to see someone be in a situation he's in," Dupont said. "I understand what it is to be system impacted."
In his letter, Simon said he met Williams in 2002 when he cast him on "The Wire" as Omar Little, a Baltimore man known for robbing street-level drug dealers.
He noted the actor's opposition to mass incarceration and the drug war and the fact that Williams had engaged with ex-felons and restorative justice groups.
Simon also described how Williams, during the show's third season, quietly acknowledged to a line producer about his own struggles with addiction and allowed a crew member to provide constant companionship to help him resist the temptation to do drugs.
"We watched, relieved and delighted, as Michael Williams restored himself," Simon wrote.
But Simon, who covered the drug war as a police reporter at The Baltimore Sun from 1983 to 1995, said Williams confided that an impulse toward addiction would be a constant in his life.
"I miss my friend," he wrote. "But I know that Michael would look upon the undone and desolate life of Mr. Macci and know two things with certainty: First, that it was Michael who bears the fuller responsibility for what happened. And second, no possible good can come from incarcerating a 71-year-old soul, largely illiterate, who has himself struggled with a lifetime of addiction. ..."