Solane Verraine, the Phoenicia woman charged with helping her husband, Johnny Asia, commit suicide last November, has been offered a plea deal by Ulster County Judge Donald A. Williams. She has until December 15 to decide whether to plead guilty to second-degree manslaughter, resulting in a sentence “capped at two to seven years,” said Chief Assistant District Attorney Michael Kavanagh. If, instead, the case goes to trial and she is convicted, she could get as much as five to fifteen years.
Verraine, 63, was originally accused of second-degree murder but was indicted by a grand jury for “intentionally causing or aiding John Owings, Jr., to commit suicide.” Johnny Asia was the stage name of guitarist John Owings, Jr., 65, who had been ill for many years and suffering from severe back pain. Police said Verraine had admitted at the time of the arrest that she had saved and crushed over 90 pain pills and other prescription medications for Asia to consume with alcohol, resulting in his death.
Verraine called 911 to report Asia’s death on November 19, 2016, and police arrested her the same day. She has been held for over a year without bail at the Ulster County jail.
Kavanagh had requested a sentence of time already served if Verraine pleads guilty, but Williams has indicated that she would do time in state prison. “We’re going with what the judge thinks is the most appropriate disposition,” said Kavanagh. “If she decides to plead guilty, it’ll be clear what she’s pleading to. It’s a strange case. She was originally charged with murder because of the bizarre circumstances she was responsible for. Because somebody has lost a life, the judge takes it extremely seriously.”
Verraine’s prison time is not expected to be lengthy. Kavanagh said, “She’d be eligible for release in less than a year, since she’s already served a year. The defense is arguing one to three years, and we won’t oppose that, so she will be eligible for release soon, if not immediately.” Judge Williams could decide on a sentence of less than two years but will not give Verraine more than six. She is scheduled to return to Ulster County court at 9:30 a.m. on December 15 to announce whether she will accept the plea deal.
Assisted suicide is illegal throughout the United States, although seven states — not including New York — permit physicians to supply lethal drugs to terminally ill, mentally competent patients, after following a series of actions designed to prevent abuse. A recent lawsuit by End of Life Choices New York, on behalf of three terminally ill people, failed to convince the New York State Supreme Court that the laws against “aid in dying” by a physician violate the individual’s constitutional rights. No state allows a person other than a doctor to help a person end their life.