'The Wire' Creator Urges Leniency In Actor's Fentanyl Death

By Henrik Nilsson | July 7, 2023, 10:42 PM EDT ·

The co-creator behind the HBO drama series "The Wire" urged a New York federal judge to show compassion to one of the men who pled guilty in the overdose death of Michael K. Williams, saying the actor's own stance against mass incarceration and the drug war spurred his letter.

In the three-page letter, David Simon drew comparisons between the show's critique of the war on drugs and the struggles of Carlos Macci, 71, who pleaded guilty in April for selling deadly fentanyl to Williams.

Williams played stickup man Omar Little on the fictional show that chronicled Baltimore's drug scene for five seasons. But when not in front of the camera, Williams was a staunch advocate for prison reform, Simon noted.

"Singularly among the actors we worked with on our drama, Michael took to heart themes and messages in our narrative, and for years after our production concluded, he continued to deliver that message in work and deed," Simon wrote.

Himself a struggling addict, Williams would have taken full responsibility for the actions leading to his death, according to Simon.

In addition, "no possible good can come from incarcerating a 71-year-old soul, largely illiterate, who has himself struggled with a lifetime of addiction," Simon said. He added that Macci was not driven by personal ambition, "but rather caught up in the diaspora of addiction himself, living one day to the next and heedless of the damage done not only to others, but to himself."

Williams, who lived in Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood was found dead in his apartment on Sept. 6, 2021, by New York police officers responding to a report of an unresponsive man.

Williams died from "acute intoxication by the combined effects of fentanyl, parafluorofentanyl, heroin and cocaine," according to the medical examiner's report.

In February 2022, four men, including Macci, were charged in New York federal court for providing the fentanyl-laced heroin to Williams.

The men were part of a drug trafficking organization that operated in the Williamsburg neighborhood, selling heroin laced with fentanyl — a synthetic and highly potent opioid — and a fentanyl analogue, according to federal prosecutors. Sales took place around and inside apartment buildings.

Simon's letter was part of a sentencing memo filed Thursday by Macci, who was arrested on Feb. 1, 2022, according to the memo.

The city's probation office has recommended a sentence of 10 years, but Macci is asking the court to issue a "sentence significantly below the guidelines" to time already served.

In support of leniency, Simon wrote that Williams always took responsibility for his own addiction.

"It is this attitude — coupled with Michael's publicly stated opposition to mass incarceration and the drug war, which he detailed in many film projects and personal commitments — that convinces me that he would want me to write this letter."

Simon also claimed that Williams believed in redemption and "fought hard for his own and for everyone in Baltimore, Brooklyn and everywhere else he encountered. He would fight for Mr. Macci."

Counsel for Macci did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

The U.S. is represented by Micah Fergenson and David Robles of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York.

Macci is represented by Benjamin C. Zeman of Zeman & Womble LLP.

The case is USA v. Robles et al., case number 1:22-cr-00092, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

--Additional reporting by Bonnie Eslinger. Editing by Melissa Treolo.

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