Rock Hill man pleads guilty to distributing fentanyl. He was sentenced to prison

A Rock Hill man with previous drug convictions was sentenced to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to two counts of dealing fentanyl, according to prosecutors and court records.

Cordarrell Deshawn McConnell, 27, pleaded guilty Monday afternoon in York County criminal court, records show.

McConnell was arrested in 2018 for the drug charges, according to police and court documents. York County drug agents made controlled purchases of fentanyl from McConnell two separate times in January 2018, said 16th Circuit assistant Solicitor Aaron Hayes.

The pills were disguised as oxycodone, another opioid, Hayes said. Lab analysis revealed the pills actually contained fentanyl, Hayes said.

Pharmaceutical fentanyl is a synthetic opioid pain reliever that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, according to the Centers for Disease Control website.

McConnell has previous convictions from 2012 for drug distribution and distributing drugs near a school or park, records show. Because of those previous convictions, McConnell could have faced life without parole if convicted at trial, Hayes said.

In the plea agreement, McConnell agreed to a 15-year prison sentence for the drug charges and an unrelated charge of domestic violence, lawyers said.

McConnell has struggled for several years with drug addiction, his lawyer, Ben Hasty of the Michael L. Brown law office in Rock Hill said. The drug transactions involved less than five pills the first time and five pills the second time, Hasty said.

“We didn’t want him to possibly face life without the possibility of parole in prison if convicted of either charge at trial,” Hasty said.

South Carolina drug laws allow prosecutors to seek a life sentence for certain offenses against defendants with previous drug convictions, Hasty said.

The charges McConnell pleaded guilty to are offenses that have parole eligibility, attorney Michael Brown said. McConnell could be released as early as after seven years, Brown said.

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Andrew Dys covers breaking news and public safety for The Herald, where he has been a reporter and columnist since 2000. He has won 51 South Carolina Press Association awards for his coverage of crime, race, justice, and people. He is author of the book “Slice of Dys” and his work is in the U.S. Library of Congress.