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New York man arrested for supplying drug in Electric Zoo festival death

By Shimon Prokupecz and Ray Sanchez , CNN
updated 1:23 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Authorities say Patrick Morgan sold pills that killed concert-goer
  • Suspect allegedly sold about 80 "molly" pills for about $1,100, prosecutors say
  • Deaths of two Electric Zoo concert-goers believed to be linked to MDMA, police say
  • Electric Zoo promoters agreed to city's recommendation that the festival be canceled

New York (CNN) -- Federal authorities Wednesday arrested an upstate New York man on drug charges in connection with the sale of the drug known as "molly" to concert-goers -- including one who died -- at a music festival on Randall's Island last August.

Last summer's Electric Zoo festival gained national attention when several people were sickened and two people died after overdosing on the drug MDMA, either in ecstasy pills or in its "pure" powder or crystal form, known as molly. The popular festival was cut short as a result of the deaths.

The suspect, identified in court papers as Patrick Morgan, was taken into custody early Wednesday, two law enforcement officials told CNN. He faces drug possession, distribution and conspiracy charges. It was not clear whether he has an attorney.

He is is believed to have sold the drug that led to at least one of the deaths, according to the officials.

U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara was expected to announce the arrest later Wednesday along with representations of the New York Police Department and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.

MDMA is believed to have caused both of the deaths at the music festival, which was attended by more than 130,000 people, in late August 2013. Police identified the two victims as Jeffrey Russ, 23, and Olivia Rotondo, 20.

Morgan allegedly sold about 80 "molly" pills to an acquaintance of Russ's for about $1,100, according to court papers. Morgan also is accused of selling Russ and his friends "molly" at a concert in Buffalo, New York, earlier that month.

On August 30, 2013, near the end of a concert at Electric Zoo, Russ told his friends he wasn't feeling well, according to court documents. He collapsed and suffered a seizure.

When Russ arrived at Harlem Hospital Center, his heart was beating rapidly and his temperature was about 108 degrees Fahrenheit, court papers said. Russ was pronounced dead at 3:21 a.m. on August 31.

The pills found on Russ contained MDMA and methylone, according to court documents. The medical examiner ruled that Russ died from "acute intoxication by the combined effects of [MDMA] and methylone with hyperthermia."

Authorities arrested Morgan after a friend of Russ's sent the suspect a text message: "Hey it was great to see you last week. Glad we got to talk about Jeff a little it was bugging me. Just know that I no longer blame us for giving the molly to him because it was him that made the mistake of taking too much," according to court documents.

Morgan allegedly responded: "Yeah man u too call me whenever you want."

After the deaths,the city recommended the electronic music festival be canceled. Electric Zoo's promoters, Made Event, agreed, police said.

What is MDMA?

Methylenedioxymethamphetamine, or MDMA, a synthetic amphetamine, was created in Germany in the early 1900s, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. During the 1970s some American psychiatrists felt they'd found in the drug a kind of "penicillin for the soul." The drug was said to allow for greater insights and better communication.

U.S. officials disagreed, and in the 1985 the Drug Enforcement Administration banned the substance, as a Schedule I drug, meaning it had no proven therapeutic value. In the 1990s, MDMA, or ecstasy, gained a reputation for party drug at all-night warehouse parties known as raves. Emergency-room visits rose steadily, from 421 in 1995 to 5,542 in 2001, according to DEA statistics. Questions were raised about safety and purity of ecstasy.

That's when molly was born.

Molly -- short for "molecule" -- is touted as the pure form of MDMA, but a spokesman for the DEA says don't believe the hype. According to Rusty Payne, the agency sees MDMA from Asia, Canada and the Netherlands.

"You have no idea the lab environment these chemicals or substances were produced in," Payne said. "If they knew where things were produced, they might think twice."

In 2009, government data found 22,816 emergency-room visits due to MDMA, a 123% percent increase from 2005.

READ: One woman's success battling PTSD with MDMA

But molly still has fans among some in the medical field. An article published last year in the Journal of Psychopharmacology found that the drug helped reduce the symptoms of PTSD for two-thirds of those enrolled in a study. Still, the sample size in that study was small, just 19 people. More studies are in the works.

Despite any potential for future uses, authorities warn that the drug is dangerous. After a giant New Year's Eve party in Los Angeles in 2010, one person died and 18 others were hospitalized for issues relating to MDMA use, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 2013: Electric Zoo music festival canceled after 2 deaths blamed on drugs

What you need to know about synthetic drugs

9 things everyone should know about the drug Molly

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