A Canton man has been sentenced to 25 years in prison in two separate cases after he was convicted of charges including rape, involuntary manslaughter, trafficking fentanyl and aggravated assault, the Cherokee County District Attorney’s office announced.
Nicholas Brian Gosnell, 23, pled guilty and was sentenced Aug. 23, in total, to 25 years in prison, followed by life on probation, for two separate cases involving multiple crimes and three different victims. During the hearing, Gosnell admitted to charges of rape, involuntary manslaughter, violation of Georgia Controlled Substances Act (6 counts), trafficking fentanyl, and aggravated assault/strangulation.
According to the district attorney’s office, in July 2018, Cherokee Sheriff’s Office deputies began investigating a drug-facilitated sexual assault. On the evening of the assault, Gosnell gave a young woman illegal drugs and later forced more intoxicants on her before raping her, prosecutors said. After an investigation that included a sexual assault exam, forensic extractions, DNA testing, and witness interviews, CSO deputies arrested Gosnell for rape.
“The night the victim met this defendant, she had no idea what his intentions were. After giving her drugs, he took advantage of her intoxicated state. Witness statements described her level of intoxication as being to the point where she could not possibly consent. Physical evidence also determined that she tried to resist him,” Assistant District Attorney Meaghan Frankish of the Special Victims Unit, who prosecuted the case, said in a statement. “During the investigation and prosecution of this case, it became very clear that Gosnell pressured this woman throughout the evening, forcing several drugs on her, and, ultimately, forcing himself on her.”
In September 2020, the Cherokee Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad received information that Gosnell, who had been released on bond over the state’s objection, was selling narcotics. After CMANS initiated an investigation, undercover agents purchased drugs from Gosnell, which field-tested positive for fentanyl.
A search warrant at Gosnell’s home resulted in CMANS finding 36 oxycodone pills, fentanyl patches, 224 alprazolam pills, other pills, and $28,000 in cash. When agents forensically examined Gosnell’s cell phone, they found texts from John O’Connell, 40, who had consumed drugs containing fentanyl and died on Aug. 19, 2020. O’Connell’s death had previously been ruled an accidental overdose, but after reviewing these texts, CMANS began investigating this death as a homicide.
Using Gosnell and O’Connell’s cell phones, records from the ankle monitor Gosnell was wearing while out on bond, and surveillance videos, CMANS agents and their forensic analyst determined that Gosnell sold O’Connell pressed fentanyl on the night of his overdose, the district attorney’s office reported.
“This defendant supplied fentanyl to drug addicts even though he was fully aware that fentanyl could be fatal and that addicts were vulnerable targets. His sole purpose of taking advantage of these individuals was to make money. And knowing the risk was death, he did it anyway,” Frankish said.
Court records show Gosnell was initially charged with felony murder, but the charge was later reduced to involuntary manslaughter.
While examining his cell phone, detectives also found evidence that Gosnell had committed aggravated assault — strangulation on another man. Gosnell had texted images of the assault to acquaintances and admitted the strangulation, authorities said.
At the Aug. 23 hearing, two victim impact statements were given to the court.
The young woman raped by Gosnell said she still suffers from the crime with sleep problems, flashbacks, fears, and emotional pain.
“You left me in a place of darkness,” she said to Gosnell.
In a statement read by Frankish, John O’Connell’s sister described her brother as a unique person with magnetic energy. She said their lives are forever crushed by his loss and Gosnell took away an amazing man.
In the rape case, Superior Court Judge David Cannon, Jr. sentenced Gosnell to 15 years to be served in prison without the possibility of parole, followed by life on probation, subject to sex offender special conditions. He may have no contact with the victims or their family members, must avoid drugs and alcohol, and may not possess a firearm.
On the involuntary manslaughter, drug, and aggravated assault strangulation case, Cannon sentenced Gosnell to 10 years to serve in confinement in the state penal system consecutive to the rape case, for a total sentence of 25 years in prison, followed by life on probation.
“Through excellent undercover and forensics investigations, CMANS was able to clearly connect Nicholas Gosnell to an overdose fatality, enabling our office to prosecute him for the death of Mr. O’Connell,” said District Attorney Shannon Wallace. “This defendant’s reign of trafficking poison and committing violent acts has ended for our community. No more can he victimize the vulnerable through despicable acts of sexual assault and selling tainted drugs. May this sentence provide closure for the victims of his crimes and their families.”
According to Families against Fentanyl, CDC data analysis showed that fentanyl overdose was the single leading cause of death among 18-45-year-olds in the United States in 2020 and 2021.
Fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. Most cases of fentanyl-related overdose are linked to illicitly manufactured and distributed fentanyl. Drug dealers add fentanyl to street drugs to increase potency and profits.
Signs of an overdose include small pupils, loss of consciousness, weak breathing, limp body, clammy skin, and bluish-colored skin. If you think someone is overdosing, call 911 immediately and administer naloxone if available.