OSWEGO —After several court delays, Oswego’s Teresa Woolson will travel to Las Vegas this week to speak at the sentencing of two men convicted of the manufacture of synthetic cannabinoids.
Woolson has been an outspoken and active opponent of synthetic drugs since the death eight years ago of her son, Victor Orlando Woolson. Victor Woolson drowned in Lake Ontario in August 2012 while under the influence of the synthetic cannabinoid dubbed spice. Woolson and her family reached a $350,000 settlement with the local merchant who sold the drug to the 19-year-old Victor.
“My insides are all shaken up but I know God has the steering wheel and will help us be calm and peaceful about it,” Teresa Woolson told The Palladium-Times on Tuesday, preparing to fly out of Syracuse to Las Vegas Wednesday morning.
Last year, a federal jury convicted Utah’s Charles Burton Ritchie and Florida’s Benjamin Galecki together on 24 counts, including the so-called “kingpin” charge of operating a continuing criminal enterprise. Prosecutors said the business partners made and sold spice, along with money laundering and mail and wire fraud charges.
Before U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Gordon hands down Galecki and Ritchie’s sentences — both are facing 20 years to life in prison — Teresa Woolson will get her long-awaited opportunity to address both the judge and the defendants.
“I’ve been practicing so I can be literate enough for the judge to understand what I’m saying,” Woolson said.
The trip, to be made with several members of Woolson’s family, is the farthest west in the nation she’s ever been, which she says is “quite surreal.”
The Woolson contingent will take the nine-hour flight from Syracuse to Las Vegas before sitting down with the Las Vegas CBS television affiliate for an interview.
“Since Victor’s death, synthetic drugs have made worse harm and are being cut into every street drunk, making even a one-time experiment dangerous and deadly,” Woolson said, reflecting on what information she’ll convey during her time at the podium.
“That’s what I hope to get across,” she added.
In the years since her son’s death, Woolson has embarked on a public safety crusade to extinguish the danger of synthetic drugs. She is the founder of the VOW Foundation, which stands for Victor Orlando Woolson, an Oswego-based advocacy group that is a familiar sight at Oswego County health and safety events.
“Molly and Ecstasy used to be party drugs but now, it’s almost all synthetic and that’s so dangerous,” she said.