David Best offered to the U.S. attorney's office to plead guilty to brandishing a firearm and accept a minimum seven-year prison term.
But the government wanted him to admit responsibility for an Economy man's drug death and serve at least 18 years in prison.
"The government was sure it could prove the death count," defense attorney Stanton Levenson said. "My client insisted he was not responsible for the death, and he was willing to take the risk."
So Mr. Best, 28, of Robinson went to trial and Thursday, after deliberating for nine hours, a jury found him not guilty in the death of Chris Radford, 23.
He was, however, found guilty on all the other counts against him, including conspiracy to distribute Opana and oxycodone, possession with intent to distribute, brandishing a firearm while drug-trafficking, and burglary of a Beaver County pharmacy.
He will be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Arthur E. Schwab on Sept. 15 and faces at least the mandatory seven years in prison on the firearms count.
Had he been found responsible for the death, the defendant would have faced a mandatory 20-year minimum sentence.
Mr. Best's trial began April 1 and included testimony from a fellow dealer who described how Mr. Best broke into Med-Fast Pharmacy in Baden and shared crushed pills with Mr. Radford just hours before the man died May 9, 2012.
The prosecution argued that Mr. Best was responsible for Mr. Radford's death.
But the defendant steadfastly denied it.
During the trial, Mr. Levenson called both a forensic pathologist and forensic toxicologist, who both testified there was not enough information available to prove the pill suggested by the government was responsible for Mr. Radford's death.
Mr. Radford had numerous health problems, including untreated sleep apnea, and had both alcohol and Xanax in his system, Mr. Levenson said.
The toxicologist called him "a toxic time bomb," the attorney said.
Paula Reed Ward: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-2620 or on Twitter @PaulaReedWard.