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Lawyer to officials: Return spoon sculpture used in protest

FILE - In this June 22, 2018 file photo, art gallery proprietor Luis Alvarez, left, and sculptor Domenic Esposito, right, stand beside an 800-pound sculpture of a bent, burnt heroin spoon placed in front of the Stamford, Conn., headquarters of Purdue Pharma, to protest the company's manufacture of opioids. Alvarez is due to be arraigned in Stamford on Tuesday, July 10, 2018, on a charge of interfering with police. (Susan Dunne/Hartford Courant via AP, File)

STAMFORD, Conn. (AP) — The lawyer for an art gallery owner asked Connecticut authorities on Tuesday to drop charges against him and return a steel sculpture of drug spoon that was seized after being placed in front of a drug maker’s headquarters in protest of the opioid overdose crisis.

Fernando Alvarez was arrested on misdemeanor charges last month after he and artist Domenic Esposito dropped the nearly 11-foot-long (3-meter-long), 4-foot-high (1-meter-high) sculpture in front of Purdue Pharma in Stamford. Esposito, who created the artwork, was not arrested.

Purdue Pharma has denied allegations in lawsuits by several state and local governments that it used deceptive marketing to boost sales of its opioid painkiller OxyContin, which has been blamed for fueling the opioid crisis. The company said in a statement that it shares the protesters’ concerns about the crisis and respects their right to protest peacefully.

Alvarez appeared Tuesday in Stamford Superior Court, where his attorney asked a prosecutor to consider dropping the charges and releasing the sculpture. Alvarez was supposed to be arraigned on charges of obstructing free passage and interfering with police, but his cases were postponed to July 25.

Prosecutors didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment.

Alvarez, 48, owner of Fernando Luis Alvarez Gallery in Stamford, said Tuesday that the spoon sculpture, which was impounded by police, likely will be used in similar protests in other cities in an effort to hold drug makers accountable.

Opioid overdose deaths rose to about 46,000 in the U.S. for the 12-month period that ended in October 2017, up about 15 percent from October 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Esposito said the idea for the sculpture came from his mother screaming several years ago that she found another bent spoon used by his brother, who has been sober for several months after nearly dying and going to jail for drug use.

Spoons are used to “cook” drugs like heroin into liquid form before putting them into syringes.

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