AP NEWS

Former State Senator Died of Drug Overdose

December 5, 2018

(Worcester, Ma 120817) Former State Rep. Brian Joyce exits federal court. December 8, 2017. Staff photo by Chris Christo

BOSTON -- Former state Sen. Brian Joyce died of an overdose of a drug that’s been used to euthanize pets and execute convicts, the state medical examiner’s office said Tuesday.

Joyce, a longtime Milton legislator who was facing federal corruption charges, died Sept. 27 of “acute pentobarbital intoxication,” said spokesman Felix Browne of the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security.

But Browne said the manner of death -- whether it was accidental or otherwise -- remains undetermined, pending a “thorough death investigation.”

Joyce, 56, had been indicted on 113 counts including racketeering, fraud, money laundering, extortion and obstruction as part of a scheme to trade his political influence for cash and bribes. He had pleaded not guilty to the charges, which were dismissed in October after his death.

Prosecutors had amassed more than 1.5 million pages of discovery, according to a status conference on the case held 10 days before he died. He was tentatively scheduled to go on trial in May. The married father of five and 20-year fixture in the Legislature “died peacefully,” according to his obituary.

The 104-page, December 2017 indictment claimed Joyce used his state Senate office to take bribes and kickbacks. The kickbacks ranged from pounds of free coffee to a car. In all, the feds say it totaled about $1 million.

Joyce announced in 2016, while under federal investigation on the corruption charges, that he would not run for re-election.

News stories from the past few years have listed pentobarbital as a key drug in the cocktail used in states such as Ohio to execute people on death row. It’s also used for destroying animals, according to news reports.

The drug also can be used in small doses as a short-term sleep aid, according to the National Institute of Health. Doctors warn that pentobarbital in combination with other drugs including alcohol can cause death.

The Bristol County District Attorney’s office said when Joyce died that no foul play was suspected. No one from the office could be reached immediately.

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