Erie Man Sentenced to 20 Years for Fentanyl Death, Firearms Offenses | USAO-WDPA

ERIE, Pa. – A former resident of Erie, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty and was sentenced in federal court to 20 years (240 months) in prison on his conviction of violating federal drugs and firearms laws, United States Attorney Scott W. Brady announced today.

United States District Judge Susan Paradise Baxter imposed the sentence on Dona Arell Cowans, 38.

According to information presented to the court, Cowans sold a quantity of fentanyl that caused the death of R.R.W. on July 8, 2019. Investigators were able to conduct additional controlled buys from Cowans and during a search of Cowans’ residence the following day, located an additional 34 grams of fentanyl, cash, a loaded firearm, scales and packaging materials.

Assistant United States Attorney Paul S. Sellers prosecuted this case on behalf of the government.

United States Attorney Brady commended the Pennsylvania State Police for the investigation leading to the successful prosecution of Cowans. Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) is the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts. PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.

This case is also part of Project Guardian, the Department of Justice’s signature initiative to reduce gun violence and enforce federal firearms laws. Initiated by the Attorney General in the Fall of 2019, Project Guardian draws upon the Department’s past successful programs to reduce gun violence; enhances coordination of federal, state, local, and tribal authorities in investigating and prosecuting gun crimes; improves information-sharing by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives when a prohibited individual attempts to purchase a firearm and is denied by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), to include taking appropriate actions when a prospective purchaser is denied by the NICS for mental health reasons; and ensures that federal resources are directed at the criminals posing the greatest threat to our communities. For more information about Project Guardian, please see

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