Only man charged in Johnson County DA’s opiate overdose initiative pleads guilty

The only man charged as part of a Johnson County effort to prosecute opiate sellers in overdose cases pleaded guilty this week.

Michael Bickley, 27, pleaded guilty in Johnson County District Court on Monday to distributing drugs leading to the 2016 death of 27-year-old Matthew Martinek.

Shortly after Bickley was charged in 2016, Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe announced plans to criminally investigate all opiate overdose cases.

Bickley is the only person to have faced charges and been prosecuted under the initiative. No other cases are pending at this time, according to the district attorney’s office.

From 2015 to 2017, Johnson County recorded 149 overdose deaths, the second-highest number in the state, according to Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s county health rankings.

Howe said Friday that the county has investigated a number of cases since the Bickley charges. He said these type of cases, while difficult to prosecute, are key in combating opioid addiction across the county.

“We do feel like it’s worth continuing these efforts and identifying these individuals,” Howe said. “It highlights the significance of the problem in our community when cases are presented in court.”

Bickley also was charged with possession of heroin, oxycodone and Xanax. But those charges were dropped as part of a plea agreement.

He is scheduled to be sentenced October 4. According to court documents, prosecutors will asked the judge for a 147-month sentence, or just over 12 years.

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Katie Bernard covers Kansas crime, cops and courts for the Kansas City Star. She joined the Star in May of 2019. Katie studied journalism and political science at the University of Kansas.